It was inevitable, these things often are, aren’t they? Who knows how they start, or when; how the thought starts, how it grows. It is of no importance, really. The point is, we make the idea, and we either keep or delete it.
Peter seemed decent enough, hard worker, yes, but still a groveler; they all are in one way or another, especially his type. That expression of his, what was it? Something about tough getting going. The English language is so...dull, so predictable. He would often bring out this tawdry scrap of pop philosophy when I was within earshot. So earnest, so transparent. I am not sure why the word comes to me, but he always struck me as ‘overblown’. Yes, that’s the word, overblown. Too ambitious for such a tiny mind. He was a plough horse believing itself a Derby winner.
At his initial interview, when I asked why he desired to work at the firm, he said, “Because your history, sir, cannot be ignored.” My history? Shrabel said he meant my age, as if getting to my age warrants some kind of special attention, especially from the weak and greedy.
I could tell Zoe was enamored with him from the start. These things are easier to intuit as one becomes older, aren’t they? Him with his casual boat shoes and that embarrassing hat. So gauche. Canapés by the pool does not call for fancy dress, anyone with culture knows this. Alas, Peter Forcsher clearly had none, and thus ignored the convention. Unwise. Shrabel said he had been some kind of pinup boy in a pop group once, which did not surprise me. My mother would have called him common.
“Oooh, I love your hat! I love your hat!” Zoe squawked when they met, as if she’d never seen a hat before.
Linklaetter and Hiroshumi had me cornered under the cabana, insisting I care about their deals. It is precisely why I ask Shrabel not to invite these people to my parties, but I allowed him to talk me into it. Most times I do not pay attention to these desperate pleas in public, simply nod vaguely. This day, was no different.
I paid attention to Zoe, though, loving his hat in the midday sun. That sounds so cliché, doesn’t it? Like a line from some tawdry love song one must endure in a taxiing aeroplane. But there she was , right in front of me, being drawn in, gradually, like the tide.
At that precise moment I remember catching a glimpse of myself in the bar mirror. I had no recognition at first, in that fleeting moment. I thought it was an old man. It was me, though. The blazer, the white hair carefully combed from the side, the deep lines around the eyes and mouth. No brown skin can ever disguise these lines, as every second person on the Med will testify.
I left my party straight after lunch and climbed the stone stairs to the house. The mariachi band had started and guests were now dancing beside the pool in the hard sun. She never left his orbit, magnetized there in space, helpless. This was all too clear as I looked back down from the top of the stairs. There they were, laughing, intent, laughing etc. The desperation of youth. If it wasn’t so tragic it would be funny, wouldn’t it? He glanced up at me, just for a second, and as he did I saw his exact thought. ‘ I should wave, but if I do it will attract him to the fact that I am flirting with his beautiful young wife. So, I will pretend I do not see him.” As I say, sadly, almost comically transparent.
Maybe this was the moment when the first of the ideas idea arrived. Then more, one after the other, like a procession. King Carl Gustaf of Sweeden has his summer palace by the lake in Tullgarn, adorable structure, sheer dream. He likes to entertain on one of the higher balconies, and to get to it one is led through a series of large, ornate doors, perhaps a dozen of them. His doormen open each and they are slammed behind as one passes through. One after the other. The Zoe plan happened exactly like this. One thought building onto the last, as I moved from one room to the next room, and the next.
Was it pre-meditated? Does one plan to breathe? No. It was simply pure momentum, in and of itself.
As I entered our bedroom and I slipped off my shoes, placing them in the wardrobe, a great weariness began to take hold. That was when the next idea happened, perhaps.
I glimpsed the oak rifle case at the far back corner of the top shelf. Just a tiny edge of that fine box. I stood and stared.
“Because your history, sir, cannot be ignored.”
I lay down with the sound of a cruise ship blowing its horn in the far distance, and my wife’s cackle rising above the din just below. I closed my eyes.
When I woke the sun had almost dipped behind the hills of Paros, and the inside of our bedroom had turned a soft pink. I arose, my mind fresher, my body strangely sharp. As I moved around the room, I had a clear memory of camping trips with my brother Werner and his friends, arising from our tent in the morning after long nights of beer and schnapps, and literally shaking the painful muzziness away, like hay from a pullover. I would be whole and sharp and fresh again in one brisk movement.
“Spielen Sie ein weitres!” I heard my chief accountant scream from below. The stupid band dutifully started up again, and as I slid the barrel between the wooden louvers, I could see the group from Osaka erupt into some kind of comical dance. Zoe and her lap dog remained locked in their obscene orbit at the edge of the swimming pool. Blood boiled in my face, but again, my mind was strangely clear, hands steady.
But then the choice had to be made, didn’t it? Which door to enter next? Him or her? Both, perhaps? Then the repercussions began to pull my focus, the legalities, the press, the firm etc. etc. Resolve began to seep away, but only for a moment.
“Oh do not tell me that!” My child bride screamed out from below, slicing through the surrounding din, and suddenly I was back on track, another room in the King’s palace entered, the door slammed behind. I rearranged my grip on the smooth varnished stock and checked the pressure of my forefinger on the trigger, which was now warm.
I felt the recoil through my whole body, like I’d been lifted a metre off the ground by an invisible hand and dropped. Or perhaps like diving into Como in the chilly early summer.
Shrabel collected me at 7.30 the next morning as usual.
“Good morning sir, I hope this morning finds you well?” The same greeting every day. Tiresome.
“Fine. Thank you.”
“I trust the party was to your liking? The guests seemed to enjoy themselves, and your wife was in excel...”
“Yes, it seemed to be a success.”
No more was said.
In the dream, Zoe wore no underwear, even more humiliating as the flimsy dress floated all around her...whilst he looked on from above, smiling. I watched the road posts speed by, defocusing and allowing them to blur, the hills of Paros all the while remaining a sharp backdrop across the sea. Why had the dream prevented the kill? To shoot the stone swimming pool edging from under her feet was weak. Her sudden plummet into the blue was amusing, yes, and somewhat satisfying as the guests roared with laughter, but it bothered me that my unconscious could not finish off what my conscious had so clearly demanded.
He smiled down on her like a patient parent, tolerant of their child’s silly mishap. Smug ownership, that was it.
“It is time to let Forcsher go. He is under performing. Please arrange this.”