Friday, April 16, 2021

A Furtive Conversation by Sammi McSporran

Sarah hadn’t expected him to look so normal. Average height, average build, a typical haircut, appropriate clothes for the cool weather. Not what she had been picturing at all. When he came to sit on the bench beside her she was about to tell him that she was waiting for someone else and so he couldn’t sit there. But before she got a chance he started talking.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” His voice was low, and he spoke without turning to look at her so his words were almost whipped away on the coastal wind. It had been his suggestion to meet here, overlooking the dunes of a miserable British beach. She’d sent the kids off to play in the sand. She wondered if he had kids too.

“Yes.” She said, though her throat was dry and her words came out all strangled. She swallowed and tried again, louder “Yes. I’m sure.”

His head whipped round and he stared her dead in the eyes until she felt the heat of embarrassment creep up her neck, but she held his gaze. Her hazel-brown eyes locked onto his steel blues. She was serious, and he saw that.

Satisfied he turned his gaze back to the water. “Do you have the money with you?”

She leant down to the handbag at her feet and tugged open the zip. He glanced down at the wads of banknotes secured with orange bands then gave a sharp nod.

“Once you leave this bench, the deal is done.” He growled. “And then there’s no going back.”

“I know.” She affirmed. “I’m not going to change my mind.”

“Then I guess you better be on your way.” The man’s gaze was still fixed in the distance, watching the waves crash on top of each other. He seemed tired, resigned.

Sarah stood, straightening her sweater and tucking her hair behind one ear so the wind wouldn’t throw it into her face. “Don’t you want to know why?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest.

He looked up at her, took in her image. She had the same air his clients always had; that they knew better, that they were entitled to get what they wanted no matter what it might cost another person. They always wanted to tell him their stories, detailing how they’d been so desperately wronged and how he was supposed to set it right. They always had justifications.

“Would it make any difference?” he said wearily as another wave crashed on the shore.

She thought for a moment, then shrugged. “I guess not.”

And that was the end of their conversation. Sarah flounced off down the beach to collect her children, leaving the bag beneath the bench as planned. After she’d dusted sand off each one and they began their walk home she pulled her phone from her pocket and texted her husband, and then her lover. Both were blissfully unaware of the meeting that had just taken place. She felt good, as she always did when she got exactly what she wanted.

The man collected up the bag and walked with it back to his car. There was no-one around to see him. This sleepy seaside town was as empty as always outside of the tourist season. He threw the bag onto the passenger seat and double-checked the info he’d been given; he knew exactly where he needed to be to meet his target. He unlocked the glovebox, pulling out what he needed. He pulled the mask over his face, and loaded his gun.

© Sammi McSporran

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