Carl lay back on the lumpy sofa, booted feet up, head on a frayed cushion, and took a long drag on the spliff he had just rolled and lit. The hit was languorous and delicious as the messy room swam and then drifted into blinkered focus. The cobwebbed cornices looked beautiful under the dappled light in which the colours on the painting above the fireplace grew vivid. Delightful details, previously unnoticed, caught Carl’s attention. Two young hares, rump to rump like duelling pistols, crouched by the gate. The birds flying overhead became menacing predators as the horseman galloped across the field, escaping a danger that could only be guessed at. ‘Damn this is good shit’ thought Carl as he sucked hungrily on the shrinking reefer.
His reverie was broken by the sound of a car carrying thumping music up the gravelled drive. As it drew to a halt outside the long windows, Carl’s finely tuned senses recognised a band whose music he now disliked intensely. Portishead reminded him of London, clubs and Susie; of a different time, when simple drugs energised his nights and water was his drink of choice.
Clambering from his cocoon he burst out into the sunlight, his body instantly galvanized and ready for action. Mark remained sitting in the driver’s seat, observing the manic movements of his erstwhile friend. The ubiquitous sunglasses barely masked his contempt.
‘Jeez Carl, it’s nine-thirty in the morning and you’re shit faced already?’
‘Wound up and ready to go’ came the reply. ‘Let’s do this thing!’
As the car swept along the quiet country lanes, the fast moving scenery and tight corners churned Carl’s empty stomach. Drawing deeply from a hip flask, he closed his eyes and reminded himself of the plans they had hatched on the previous evening. Mark had assured him that Susie was out of the country; revenge would be sweet.
‘Did you remember the keys?’ Mark asked as they reached the outskirts of town and joined the slow moving traffic on the bypass.
‘No need’ replied Carl, ‘She leaves a set for the cleaner in a rock by the back door.’
Carl made his way along the familiar alleyways, reminded of the many nights when he had sneaked out alone. The fake rock was where it had always been, the key hidden inside. Removing it, Carl descended the steep steps and let himself in to the basement flat. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light he smiled and set to work.
Susie put down the phone and sighed. Since her parents had died she had known she would need to deal with Carl. Explaining to her secretary that she would be gone for a few hours, she left the office and made her way home on foot. The shuttered town house looked empty, like so many in the desirable street. At least she made use of a few of the rooms, even if she did hold on to the rest as the investment her absent neighbours sought.
Carl was as inept at destruction as he was at anything else he had ever tried. There was mess and confusion but little lasting damage. His shock when she walked in the door froze him to the spot.
‘What were you trying to achieve?’ she quietly enquired as she stepped carefully over an upturned drawer.
‘Mark said you had papers, that you were trying to get the estate because you are eldest’ he answered, reminding her of a rabbit caught in headlights, terrified but unable to move.
‘Did you think that taking the papers would stop me? Did you think that trashing my home would scare me?’
‘Mark said there was money abroad, property deeds if I could find them.’
‘And you thought I would keep them here? You really are an idiot little brother.’
The familiar, smooth tone of her voice made Carl shake with anger. Grabbing the cricket bat he had been swinging around he lunged at her across the broken table and scattered magazines. Deftly she stepped aside, grabbed the bat and swung it hard at his head. The crack on impact echoed around the room.
When the police arrived Susie was hysterical, shaking and in tears. She explained how she had come home unexpectedly and been attacked by an intruder, not realising who it actually was.
She would need to stay elsewhere until investigations were complete. Susie gave them the address of her fiancé; Mark was already on his way to pick her up.