750 words: hay bales, part 6
And still it goes on. I tried to finish this tonight but ran out of day. Tomorrow’s (okay, later today’s) part will be short. I hope.
time to end things, james thought, a few days later.
he walked into the local mail shop and handed over a copy of his receipt email. the assistant, in turn, handed over a key and james used it to retrieve the blackmail phone from the box he had rented online while in london. the battery was dead so james plugged it into a charger in his car. more messages and more missed calls from the creep. time for the next step in his campaign. james sent a text message.
“£100k – get it within five days and be ready for instructions on how, when and where to give it away.”
james thought of saying the phone would be switched off but didn’t care enough one way or the other.
life with kat had been tense. she was obviously worried and james had to play it carefully to show just enough concern without showing that he knew just how worried she must be. in reality, he found it hard showing any concern at all. his love seemed to have rapidly wilted since he returned from london. how could that be? in a sense, it was as if he was already divorced and had moved on from that, as if kat was someone he cared about in his past but who was now simply an acquaintance. the blackmail plan had cut him off from his old life. he was in between lives, just waiting for his new one to start.
the five days passed in the same way. at several times when they sat together eating or watching television, he sensed that kat was on the verge of telling him about the affair. he did not know whether he would then tell her of the blackmail scheme and abandon it or lie to her and say he knew nothing about it. fortunately, she never did have that much courage so the question never arose. james assumed that the creep had insisted that james should not be told, even if they both did suspect that he was the blackmailer. if they were wrong and james then told marsha, all would be up.
on the fifth day, james made his arrangements and picked up the phone again. this time he did not even look at any of the messages queued up from colin. the message he sent was much longer.
“put the £100k into a bag. take the bag to the station and go to locker E171 – the code for opening it is 6618. put your bag with the money into the locker. another bag will be in the locker. it will be empty apart from this phone. take that bag and leave the phone in it. shut the locker with the same code. carry the new bag with you and have the phone switched on at all times. at some point i will track the phone’s location and check that you have that bag. sometime after that i will retrieve the money. when the phone battery dies, you may get rid of both it and the bag. do all this correctly and you will never hear from me again. get any small part wrong and your wife, the board of your company and the local newspapers will receive the photograph with details of where and when it was taken. this ends all our communications.”
well, thought james. that should do it.
he wondered whether the creep really had got the money together. it was a huge sum. much more than james thought was possible for one person to acquire in only five days. but he really didn’t care whether the money was in the locker or not.
james had begun thinking about the blackmail wondering how he might spend the money he would ask for. at that stage it was only £10k. he then thought that such a sum might be too easily got by someone like the creep. hell, he could probably get that much by selling his watch on ebay. so, he had increased the amount, in his mind, to £25k and then to £50k.
but at that point, the money became separate from his own life. he could imagine himself having and spending £10k. there was a medium format digital camera that would take that much and some of his own money to buy. or he could trade in his car and get a new one with the extra money. at the higher levels, however, the money became too tainted with the same darkness as the betrayal of infidelity. he could no more imagine himself spending that sort of money, acquired in that way, than he could imagine himself being unfaithful to kat.
it was this, he supposed, that had pushed him into indifference to her and the fate of his marriage. thinking about the blackmail money had brought home the exact wrongness of the affair. he wanted neither kat nor the money.
his next thought was to pick up the money and give it to a charity. certainly, he had no thought that tainted money could never do good. money was simply money. but the idea of touching the money appalled him. he did not want to get anywhere near it.