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I keep myself to myself. I pass by my neighbours without looking at them, know nothing of them and expect the same from everyone else: do not notice me, do not speak to me. If they greet me, I ignore them or, if that is impossible, nod and move on as quickly as I can. You will never see me engage in a conversation with anyone.
Live and let live. Do no harm to a living being, human or animal. That’s always been my motto. A perfect recipe for harmony. Coexistence. Peace on earth. But, I don’t need to tell you, the rest of the world doesn’t share my attitude.
Take my next-door neighbours. An ordinary, early-middle-age couple, two kids, girls, sweet faces, curls, angelic, as they say, butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. But the din they make. Ear-piercing shrieking, yelling and squalling. Gods of war out of control, I imagine. And that’s what bothered me: why should I have to imagine, why should I have to guess, why should I have to speculate about their play? I resent such interference in my life. And in the evening, the hour of intense madness. The kids think the floor doubles as a trampoline and a race course. My own floor judders up and down.
Day in day out, the hullabaloo goes on. My brain pulped to madness. My body a wreck. What do I do? Nothing. Live and let live. That’s my motto. But not theirs.
A year of anguish. Live and let live, I tell myself. Be patient. The day will come for your moment.
And it does.
A beautiful, sunny, spring day. A host of golden daffodils on the lawn outside. A new beginning. I wait until the father takes the little devils out and then I ring the bell. Mother opens the door. I tell her I’m not feeling well. I think it’s a heart attack, I add. I make a face of pain. Would she be able to call an ambulance on my behalf? Yes, of course; she is sorry I’m not feeling well. She lets me in. I pounce as she turns her back on me: I hit her on the head with a jack I pull out from the sleeve of my housecoat. She falls. Makes no sound. Good, as planned. Unconscious. Disposable gloves on, I cover her with a plastic sheet, tuck it under – I would hate to make a mess – and proceed to clobber her until there is no life left in her. I walk out, pulling the door closed behind me. Clothes in the washing machine, I take a shower and then it is time for a stroll in the park.
On the way back, I stop at the library for my weekly visit. From the new books’ shelf, I pick up a selection of recently published novels and a collection of short stories with an irresistible title: Temptation: A User’s Guide, by some V Main. I’m a voracious reader. We all have our weaknesses.
As I approach our block, I see three police cars, lights flashing, and an ambulance. A police officer does not let me through.
‘I’m a resident,’ I say.
‘This is a murder scene.’
‘Can’t say more.’
The jack? What did I do with the jack? Left it in the flat? A murder weapon left on the scene? No, do not worry. It’s theirs. I’m not a thief. I only borrowed it. The husband had forgotten it by the door of their garage the previous night. I carried it to their flat under my coat, neatly wrapped in cling film. Unwrapped it before leaving the flat. Would have been stupid leaving my DNA. And yes, you are right: his finger prints will be on it.
‘The husband, my bet’s on him,’ I hear a neighbour tell a group of others, gathered on the lawn.
‘Mmm, there was always something weird about him,’ another one says.
‘I wonder why?’
‘You can’t tell what goes on in a marriage.’
‘Poor children. Mother dead, father in prison. Such little angels. Where will they go?’
‘The couple above that strange person who never speaks to anyone, they used to foster. Didn’t they say they were looking to get back to it. Now is their chance.’
Live and let live, that’s my motto. Live and let live. Unless…