Exclusive extracts from OxCrimes – OxCrimes is a new charity anthology that brings you short stories by 27 top crime authors and will benefit the global anti-poverty charity Oxfam. It went on sale last week, and to support the launch – because we hate poverty too – Crime Fiction Lover is working with Profile Books to bring you exclusive extracts from some of the pieces in the book. We’ve already had ones by Adrian McKint, Martyn Waites and Christopher Folwer, Our final extract has been provided by Maxim Jakubowski (pictured).
Here’s an author who’s also something of an institution in the genre. For many years he ran London’s finest independent crime book store – Murder One. He also organised the Crime Scene Film and Literary festival. As an author he’s penned 15 novels. Often weaving crime and erotica, his latest is Ekaterina and the Night. Today, we bring you the beginning of his short story My Live as a Killer. Oh, and don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of OxCrimes – £9.99 in paperback or £7.99 as an eBook. Go on, it’s for charity.
My Life as a Killer by Maxim Jakubowski
My nights are full of guilt. A price I am willing to pay. The way to look at it is to convince myself it’s just a job.
Killing people. Cleaning up. Whatever you prefer to call it.
Someone has to do it.
The first time, it was personal. That was a mistake. But I got away with it. Well, insofar as it launched me on my new career.
I was in love with a woman. Or maybe in retrospect I was only actually in lust. She was blonde, tall and slim and had a wanton spark in her green eyes that just spoke to me in seductive ways. Her name was Cathleen. We’d met at a function, we’d heavily flirted, quickly fucked, and then done the deed a few more times in wholesome abandon. In hotel rooms, over pleasantly dirty weekends in coastal towns. Only for her husband to somehow find out about us and come knocking at my office door, accusing, begging, threatening.
I remembered the things she’d said about him during our brief conversations when our hands, lips and other useful parts of our anatomy were not jousting under the bed covers. How she felt he took her for granted. How he lacked imagination. I did not attempt to justify the affair, just stated the facts but this only served to make him angrier.
I also was married, had children even. This he had discovered in the process of investigating what sort of man his own wife was betraying him with. His anger bubbled to the surface and he asked me how I would feel if my family found out about my extracurricular activities. Now I knew I was not a perfect man and this was not my first instance of adultery, and my soul could live with the fact, but I don’t react well to threats.
‘You’d really contact my wife and tell all?’ I asked him.
His name was Christopher, he looked like a Christopher not a Chris and wore an off the peg grey suit.
‘You bet I would.’
That night I killed him.
We agreed to a further meeting to keep discussing the matter, although my mind was made up already. I needed time to think. And plan. I hinted to him I was willing to let Cathleen go and cease the affair. I asked him for a few hours respite.
We drove to an isolated part of Blackheath Common, parked separately and made our way to the shelter of the trees as a thin rain had begun to fall which I realised would muddy any possible trail or footprints in the grass. He had no suspicion and it was easy to take him by surprise. I surprised him from behind and, after much struggle, succeeded in strangling him with the leather belt I had kept in my jacket pocket. I never thought it would be so easy. I’d read countless crime books and now put my plan into action. I would transfer his body to the boot of his own car and take him to a vast building site I’d spotted earlier and which could be accessed through a gap in a wonky wooden fence and dispose of the corpse there. I was wearing gloves, old clothes and shoes I would burn later. It was straightforward. What I hadn’t expected was that Cathleen would be waiting in their car and the look of shock on her face when she saw me carrying Christopher’s body towards the vehicle was one of sheer horror and told its own story.
There was one thing all my reading had taught me: not to leave witnesses.
I knew there was no point trying to justify myself or invoke her love. She had to go. I killed her too. With the back-up knife I had brought along for contingency. It was a waste, and I knew it but I had no other alternative.
There was a large pit at the site where the new building’s foundations were being prepared. The bodies fell into darkness and, luckily enough, from the rim of the pit were immediately lost in shadow. In all likelihood, the cement would pour down and cover them before they were noticed.
I surprised myself with the degree of calm and steadiness with which I was conducting the whole improvised operation.
I drove their car away from the building site. It was a two-years old Volvo which had been purchased second-hand and had over 60,000 miles on the counter. I emptied the glove compartment and disposed of any documents as we crossed the Thames at Richmond Bridge. I abandoned the car near a rough Brixton estate, leaving it visibly unlocked, trusting local wannabes to complete a disappearance job on it.
And then returned to my own car under the curtain of rain, hoping I wouldn’t catch a cold.
For weeks I awaited a knock at my door and found sleep difficult to achieve, but no one came. Nor was there anything in the newspapers.
* * *
A year passed and I even embarked on further affairs, albeit specifically keeping clear of married women this time. My mind somehow brushed the whole episode away.
It was as if nothing had ever happened – aside from the indelible memory of Cathleen’s white skin and ever so distinctive moans of pleasure when we had made love – and I had been given a bonus Monopoly card to get out of jail and keep on living as I had always done.
But the mind works in mysterious ways and, gradually, it began again and again to evoke the feeling of calm transcendence I had briefly experienced that night, and I was increasingly overcome with a sense of yearning I couldn’t properly explain.
As if I needed to kill again…
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© Maxim Jakubowski 2014
This extract from the beginning of My Life as a Killer by Maxim Jakubowski is taken from OxCrimes: 27 Killer Stories from the Cream of Crime Writers published 15 May by Profile Books at £9.99 paperback/£7.99 ebook.
Note: With previous books OxTravels and OxTales raising over £250,000 since their 2009 publication, Oxfam is hoping OxCrimes will raise even more, helping to tackle poverty and suffering around the world. Visit Oxfam’s emergency Response pages here to find out more about how you can help.