Coffee and Killings by Simon Maltman

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The hubbub of the cafe offered a pleasant background noise. It was Saturday and customers in the Starbucks seemed generally relaxed and to be enjoying their conversations. It was the beginning of spring and the morning sun allowed most to be in t-shirts and some to venture into shorts. Russell sat at the corner table in a sleeveless striped shirt and blue jeans. His second Frappucino sat as yet untouched while he leafed through his Classic Rock magazine. He glanced over at his Uncle Marty and then took a sip of his caramel frothy goodness.

Marty peered over his glasses at his Times, his newly poured Earl Gray steaming by his hand. Marty wore a complete suit as always and showed no signs of perspiration. The two had only spoken a handful of words since they had arrived and nothing at all for twenty minutes. Marty took a sip of his tea while continuing his reading of the week’s financial summary.

“Excuse me, please.”

“Oh, sorry,” Russell replied absently, moving a chair for a mother wheeling her pram through the cafe. She went on out and Russell watched her for just a moment. He closed his magazine and took a slug of his drink. Marty continued his interrogation of the newspaper.

“Anything exciting?” Russell ventured.

Marty exhaled lightly and removed his glasses.

“I imagine nothing you would classify as exciting, but quite informative none the less. Are you enjoying your… er magazine?” he asked, not intending to be as patronising as he sounded.

“Yeah, I’m about finished actually. Busy today isn’t it?”

“Indeed. I won’t be long finishing this,” Marty said, indicating the end of the conversation. He returned his glasses to his bony nose, took a sip of tea and continued his dissection of the day’s news.

Russell stood up after devouring the rest of his Frappucino.

“Just popping out for a smoke,” he said, heading towards the door, receiving a grunt of either recognition or disapproval.

Russell inhaled deeply and leaned against the glass window. He stretched a little and flexed his arms. He was in fair shape for his thirty-eight years. There was a free table outside and he sat and looked out towards the car park. Beyond that he could view and pity the hundreds of consumers rushing around the supermarket, shopping and sweating in equal measure. He turned his seat slightly and looked into the cafe as his cigarette burned down towards his fingers. Marty sat quite still, engrossed in his paper. His wiry frame was only bulked out by his three piece suit, his face craggy for a man not yet sixty. Russell returned to the table with a nod and Marty displayed a slight grimace at the lingering smell of tobacco. He folded his paper up neatly.

“Shall we take our leave, Russell?” he suggested with an open smile.

“Sure, I’ll get my things,” Russell replied.

“I really do enjoy these coffees together,” Marty said earnestly as he lifted his paper and placed it under his arm.

“It’s been great seeing you too as always; I’ll look forward to next Saturday,” Russell lied.

Excerpt from The Belfast Times 2nd March 2012:

Martin Delaney was found dead yesterday (Saturday) in his penthouse apartment overlooking the Lagan. The prominent politician was fifty-nine and had no children. His former television presenter wife, Sarah Wilson, passed away in tragic circumstances three years ago and she was survived by a son from her first marriage, Russell. The police have not yet given out any details, but due to Mr Delaney’s high profile and apparent good health, there is some suspicion surrounding his death. The Police Service made no comment on the death as being suspicious and has not publicly issued a cause of death.

Russell let his teabag stew for a few more seconds in his novelty ‘Titanic’ mug, before scooping it out and adding a dash of milk. It was just after 11am on the following Monday and he was not long out of bed, still in t-shirt and joggers. He crossed over to the sofa at the end of his kitchen-diner and curled up at one end. His home was a modern townhouse in the University area, quite small but attractive nonetheless. He sat for around ten minutes in silence as the tea cooled in his hand. The doorbell interrupted his thoughts.

“Russell Wilson?” asked one of the two young police officers standing on his doorstep. She was in plain clothes, her red hair tied back in a bun. Her colleague was a little taller, female too and wearing uniform and a blank expression.

“Yes,” responded Russell after a pause,” though I didn’t want the strippers until tonight.”

“I am Detective Munroe, this is PC Blair. May we come in?” she answered coolly.

“Certainly,” Russell said moving to the side and flourishing dramatically for them to come in. He winked at Blair and was scolded by a pair of disinterested blue eyes. He ushered them towards the sitting area and he perched on the arm of his recliner, offering them the sofa opposite.

“Mr Wilson, we are here to speak with you about the death of your stepfather,” said Munroe, crossing her legs.

“I didn’t really think you were strippers,” offered Russell precociously, “ but two police woman calling on me is almost too much for this time of day.” He lit a cigarette.

“When did you last see Mr Delaney?” asked Munroe as Blair took out a notebook and pencil.

Russell crossed his legs too and leaned back a little onto the end of the chair.

“I’ve gone through all of this twice with a number of your colleagues,” he responded almost absently, looking towards the ceiling and exhaling a thin trail of smoke.

“I appreciate that,” said Munroe, leaning forward, “but we just need a few more details from you.”

Russell sank off the arm and into his seat, swinging his legs over the side. He looked less jovial now and as if straining to gather his thoughts a little.

“I think I have been very cooperative with your department and my lawyer thinks so too. I have nothing further to add.”

Blair stopped writing and looked up for a moment towards Munroe.

Munroe said firmly, “ Mr Wilson, this really will not take long, we…”

“I have said all that I would like to,” Russell interrupted, “and I would like some time to myself.”

He stood up quickly. Blair looked at Munroe for direction, but they both stayed seated.

“I trust you would not like this to be on more official terms down at the station, Russell,” said Munroe evenly.

Russell leaned over and squashed his cigarette out in the ashtray sitting on the table in front of his visitors.

“It’s Mr Wilson and I doubt that will happen, dear,” he retorted. “Let yourself out.”

“You’ll be hearing from us,” she said while rising.

Blair closed her notebook and delivered Russell a haughty smile.

Excerpt from The Belfast Times 7th March 2012:

The PSNI have confirmed today that the death of Martin Delaney last week is being treated as murder and they are currently following up on several lines of enquiry. They urge any members of the public with information to come forward. Specific details of Mr Delaney’s death have not been released at this time.

Russell strolled along the beach, perspiring through his t-shirt a little, kicking sand as he walked. He looked around him cautiously as was now his custom, before entering his beach hut for the evening.

Excerpt from The Belfast Times 1st August 2013:

There have been further reports of sightings of missing man Russell Wilson. These have included one apparently in Sligo and another outside Bangor in Wales. Wilson has not been seen publicly in a year and half, disappearing soon after the death of his stepfather Martin Delaney. He is wanted by the police for questioning. The PSNI continue to appeal for any information regarding their on-going investigations.

Sean Black got changed swiftly as soon as he arrived at his hotel on a bus from Tunis. He had never felt so hot and uncomfortable. He took a 35ml measure of whiskey from the mini bar which also started to perspire when placed on the glass table. He was pushing fifty and today he felt every year of it. After a shower and some dubious hotel pizza he pocketed his wallet and press card and took a taxi to the location that he had been given.

There was Russell Wilson, sitting plain as day on a stool at a beach bar, drinking, smoking and soaking up the oppressive rays. He rose and slapped Black on his damp back.

“You must be Black — how are you doing?”

They both took a seat. Black took in his surroundings, briefly dazzled by the brightness creeping in under the bar parasol.

“Fine, you?”

“Yeah, grand, so far it doesn’t look like you’ve brought the cops,” said Russell, looking into the middle distance. “Good man.”

“For an exclusive like this — no chance. Don’t you worry — I’ll have my story straight about how I managed to track you and then told the police as soon as I got back and yadda yadda.”

“Sounds fine. You have the money?”

“Yeah — it’s in the hotel safe — we can go there after.”

“No rush — you’re here for a few days, let’s have a drink and then we can talk at my place.”

“Fine by me, what are you having?”

They were soon back at Russell’s beach hut, both smoking, sitting opposite each other, blinds pulled to give some respite from the sun. Inside had little furniture, a lived-in place, but by someone living most of their time outside.

“So, do you have a Dictaphone or something?” asked Russell flatly.

“No, no — you go ahead. Like you say — we have plenty of time for the formal stuff, just tell me your story from the start.”

Russell’s expression soured, his face seemed suddenly burdened. He didn’t seem very puffed up anymore.

“OK — well first off — my stepfather’s murder. He was well thought of in general, even though everyone knows the things he used to be involved in. But I hated him.” Russell sat forward and gestured with his cigarette. “I know he had my mother killed.”

Russell paused and chewed on the aftertaste of his own words.

“How do you know that?” asked Black slowly.

“They were fighting all the time before she died and she was onto a big story. It was something connected to him. I found some of her notes about it. It was going to look bad on him — something about his past when he was paramilitary connected — you know?”

“Go on.”

Russell put out his smoke, crushing it into a little black ball.

“She was going to go ahead with the story no matter what it might lead to.”

“And you think he had his wife killed to shut her up?” asked Black.

“I didn’t really think it at first but as time went on I became convinced he had done it. It wouldn’t have been the first person he gave the order for. I still met him every Saturday and all I did was daydream about how I could kill him. Run him over, push him off a balcony.”

He stared up at Black. “But I gotta tell you — I didn’t do it. I’ve been framed. Before I ran I had heard on the grapevine how they were building a case against me. This isn’t what you want to hear I’m sure, but I didn’t do it. I’m glad he’s dead and all but…”

“I believe you,” interrupted Black crisply.

“Really? I mean if you do that’s something I suppose. But the police — they’re too lazy —they’d stitch me up. I’m the only benefactor from his death and that’s all been frozen now. That’s why I need that money and I can’t go back — I need to keep moving.”

“Have you talked to anyone else about all this?” asked Black, his face set, his hands pushing down in his pockets.

“No, no one — this is the only way I could think of getting enough money to keep me going, you know?”

“Good,” sneered Black, his face transforming into something unpleasant. He stood and Russell watched him, fear flickering across his face. Black pulled out a small snub-nosed pistol.

“Oh, my God,” said Russell, scrambling to his feet.

“Sit down,” commanded Black.

“Look, listen,” said Russell, continuing to get up.

Black struck him on the cheek with the butt of the gun, only enough to daze him a little.

“I said sit down.”

Russell did as he was told, holding his face.

Black took a seat also, crossed his legs, holding the gun loosely in his hand.

“Who are you?” asked Russell quietly, staring horrified towards Black.

“I work for an organisation. They didn’t want you actually talking to the press.”

“Why?” Russell asked quietly. He began to shake slightly.

“I suppose you deserve an explanation. I’m afraid you’ve got caught up in something quite messy. Our little country has relative peace — but it’s a delicate balance. A few things go wrong and we’re back to The Troubles. Delaney recently found out about a few things he shouldn’t have. Like who killed your mother.”

“What? He didn’t, I mean — who?” babbled Russell.

“Regrettably your mother was going to cause some serious public waves about old history and we couldn’t allow that to happen. Many people would have died in the fallout.”

“We? Who are we?” Russell paused. “Did you do it?” Russell began to scramble up again, almost shouting. Black held the gun a little tighter and tutted. Russell sat down again. Black sighed and sat back again too, crossing his legs once more.

“Not that it’s that important, but, no, it was not me, just one of my colleagues. I was, however, the one who killed your stepfather. Another necessity, unfortunately.”

He looked away for a moment and then rose heavily.

Russell cowered slightly and raised his hands, saying, “Look, Black or whoever you are, I won’t tell anyone, I’ll keep my mouth shut, I don’t care if you killed him, I’ll get you money, just let me go, I…”

“Enough,” interrupted Black, walking towards him. “Here,” he said casually, handing over a cigarette.

Russell accepted it and tried to steady his hand. They both lit up and then there was silence. Smoke swirled around the thin streams of light that crept in from the outside world. Black finished his cigarette and threw it on the floor. Russell took a few last draws of his own.

“Please, I haven’t done anything, let me go,” pleaded Russell.

He hunched over himself and stared at the floor.

“This is regrettable, Russell,” offered Black.

He rotated the gun in his hand with the butt facing out and swung towards Russell.

Excerpt from The Belfast Times 14th August 2013:

The body of missing man Russell Wilson was discovered yesterday, confirmed police in Tunisia. Mr Wilson had not been seen for almost two years and had previously been named by the PSNI as a ‘person of interest’ in the murder investigation of Martin Delaney. The injuries suggested that Wilson was the victim of a very violent robbery. The PSNI have confirmed that they are still following other lines of enquiry into the death of Martin Delaney.

Simon Maltman is a writer and musician from Bangor, Northern Ireland. Simon has had crime stories published with the likes of Mystericale and had poetry published with United Press. He has also had articles published in a range of magazines such as Six of One and Philosophy Now. Simon is an established musician in the Northern Ireland music scene through a variety of projects.

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