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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Small Fry
by Helen Kitson

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'What's your name?'
     'Madeleine.' Or Michelle, Mandy or Melanie: I've used them all. A different name every day.
     At first I went through the alphabet. So I'd be Ann one day, Brenda the next. X was tricky, though. Impossible, in fact. So I went straight from Wendy to Yvonne. Now I just pick names at random, to suit my mood.
     I was Madeleine for this guy. He stank. BO; the way fat blokes smell. Nice car, though. A smart Granada, clean, dark metallic blue. I always remember the cars. I remember the registration numbers, just in case. This guy, he was probably a sales rep. A suit was hanging up from a hook above one of the rear windows. They give you bull, mostly, but this one wasn't the talkative type. He wore this chunky signet ring on his marriage finger. The ring had a design in the middle, a golden pair of compasses. A Masonic symbol, he said.
     'Must've been expensive,' I said. I like to chat: it makes me feel more at ease, less edgy.
     'I can afford it,' he said. A light blue shirt, the buttons straining over his gut. With patches under the arms. One of those big, squashed noses. He could afford plenty, but he couldn't afford to be too choosy.
     He didn't quibble at the price. Later, maybe. Some of them get a kick out of haggling. They like to beat you down, get one over.
     He drove to this building site.
     'It's creepy here,' I said, pulling my jacket closer.
     Everything was hard and sharp. Cubes of bricks, wrapped up in plastic sheeting and tied with strips of blue plastic. Steel pipes. Oil cans. A wire mesh fence. The smell of breezeblocks. The only soft thing was an abandoned workman's boot, caked in dried mud.
     He walked over to this square area. It would be a room in a house, one day. Other houses by it were nearly built, rigged with scaffolding, missing windows and doors.
     'In here,' he said, and I followed him into the square enclosure.
     'Lie down.'
     'But it's all dirty.'
     He found a piece of plastic sheeting and smoothed it out for me to lie on. It wasn't very clean but it wasn't worth arguing over.
     So I lay down and did the biz. Gave him his money's worth, I reckon. I put my tights back on.
     'The money? We agreedů'
     'Oh yeah.' He got out his wallet and irritably counted out the money. It was short of what I thought we'd agreed on.
     'I'm sorry, it's not enough,' I said.
     'It's all you were worth.'
     I don't like being short-changed. It's not like I enjoy what I do. I grabbed his wrist and he glowered at me, really mad now.
     'Get your filthy whore hands off me,' he hissed. Some of them turn like this, when they've had their jollies. For some of them, this is their jollies. But I wouldn't let go of him, I'm stubborn that way.
     He grabbed hold of a metal pipe and I thought he was going to smash my head in.
     'No you don't, you fucker!' I shouted. Anger made me strong. I got hold of the pipe, bashed his arm. I'm not a violent person by nature, anyone will tell you. But you've got to look after number one in this game. He squealed, like the dirty pig he was. I couldn't leave it there, he'd riled me, so I brought the pipe down onto the back of his neck.
     He collapsed in front of me, like a big blancmange. He lay still on the concrete. I could almost imagine him not there, just a chalk outline, but probably they don't really draw around bodies any more.
     I knew he was dead. You can just tell. Well, I didn't think too clearly about the consequences. I thought that the dirty old boot looked hopelessly sad. Where was its partner? I get quite soppy over stuff like that.
     I wouldn't take any money. Not even what I was owed. Too much like grave robbing, even though it made my evening a complete waste of time.
     It was self-defense, Your Honour. He should have worn a hard hat, the notice said so. He didn't use a condom, doesn't that prove his reckless nature?
     Maybe his Mason friends would rally round, pull the stops out. Coppers are Masons, usually, aren't they? The high-up ones, anyhow. I removed his signet ring: not because I was going to nick it, I didn't want it. Well, I did think about taking it, but it seemed too much like the trophies they talk about, the small things killers remove from their victims. But that's serial killers and I never killed anyone before.
     Anyway, I threw his ring into an oil can. I threw it away because it meant something important to him: it represented all the stuff he had and all the stuff I'd never have.
     Later it would rain. Then someone would find an abandoned car. Then the workmen would turn up and they'd find a dead fat guy in a house that hadn't even been built. The owner of the solitary work-boot would perhaps be the one who'd phone the police on his mobile phone. By then I'd be at home in my little flat. And I'd wait, for as long as it took, and I'd be ready, any damn time they chose. Ready with it all; hook, line and sinker.

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