Steve careened down the motorway in a panic, dodging the occasional car as he drifted a bit too far onto the opposing lane. He wiped at his bloody lip and furrowed his brow in an attempt to focus on the road; however this was difficult due to the bullet lodged deep in the flesh of his shoulder. He had no idea if the men were still chasing him or what he was going to do about the man he’d shot. How do you explain killing a man in self-defence on your first day on the job as a cleaner? He placed the handgun he’d acquired in the glove box and covered it up with the Land Rover’s driver’s manual.
He looked down at his blood stained uniform in disgust. In the struggle he’d lost the gold plated lighter he’d spent so much on to impress his boss, not that the self-important old fart appreciated it anyway. He looked and felt as though he had probably just experienced the absolute worst first day imaginable, all for minimum wage as well.
As his pulse began to even out he couldn’t help but imagine he’d probably be better off unemployed, at least when he sat in his boxers eating cheesy maize snacks on his couch at home he wasn’t in danger of death, or being chased down by what he presumed were the British equivalent of the mafia.
Just as his driving was levelling back out into the realms of safety, Steve heard the screech of police sirens behind him. He had never thought it possible to feel both relief and absolute horror at the same time, but here he was now breathing out a big sigh and sweating so much that his already sodden work shirt was clinging to him like a second skin. They signalled for him to pull over at the nearest safe spot, and Steve knew that the hard shoulder was coming up fast. He flipped his glove box open, and made sure that the gun wasn’t visible at all, and tugged nervously at his collar hoping some of the wet heat that was trapped in his clothes would escape.
He pulled onto the hard shoulder moments later, tarmac crunching under the big wheels of the Land Rover. His heart was beating double-time as the police car pulled slowly in behind him. Inside two officers seemed to be talking to each other in the relative darkness that filled their car. The man in the driver’s seat nodded and the passenger side door swung open as the officer got out, one hand on his kit belt, the other holding a little ticket book. He slowly walked towards Steve’s SUV. The officer’s gait was measured and without urgency and it made him feel much calmer about his situation.
And then he was there knocking on the window, making gestures for him to roll down his windows. Steve took a deep breath hoping to God that he didn’t look as dishevelled as he felt and rolled down his window.
“Good evening Sir.” The officer said, his voice gravelly. “Would you mind stepping out of the car?”
“What’s wrong officer?” Steven tried to say with confidence, but it came out shakily. He started to feel faint.
“Sir, just step out of the car.”
“Just get the fuck out god damn it!” the man shouted grabbing him by the collar and pushing a gun up against his face.
Steve had turned up for his first day at work in demonstrably good spirits. He had been out of work for so long it even made the cleaning jobs at the hotel seem great; even if most of his colleagues resembled the cast of a post apocalyptic zombie movie. He had spent his advance payment on decent black shoes and a gold plated lighter. Steve didn’t smoke, but he’d bought the garish thing to impress his boss Mr Whickerman whose taste in cigars was less than decent.
The beginning of the day had gone well; he had already gleaned as much information as he needed from the induction the previous day. Which consisted of four hours of harrowing DVD instructional footage that the warned him not to punch any of the holiday makers in the face, or set fire to any of the furniture.
By his first break he’d made use of the lighter he bought to light Mr Whickerman’s fat cigar, but he only repaid the favour by blowing acrid smoke in his face. Cleaning rooms was not a particularly tasking job by any stretch of the imagination; you walk in at about half past eleven in the morning, strip the sheets and replace them with clean ones. Replacing the linen was easy enough and then all he had to do was grab a vacuum cleaner and push it around the room for a couple of minutes, before quickly dusting off the sides.
The rest of the day he served as room service. It was on the fifth floor, at about half past four, when he heard three loud separate thuds, it sounded to Steve like furniture falling over.
Worried that someone may have hurt themselves, but also wanting to prove himself an apt employee, he made his way down to the end of the hall where he thought he heard the noise come from. Just as he was reaching the end a voice called out and there were two more dull hollow thuds. Steve tentatively approached the door, his heartbeat quickened slightly as he pressed his ear against the cool wood. He heard a bit of shuffling, but nothing out of the ordinary.
He knocked three times, before shouting out “Hello, room service, is everything alright?” The longest time seemed to pass before he knocked for a second time. Satisfied in his mind that there was either no one inside, or that the person inside had hurt themselves with whatever had caused the noise, he slipped his key card into the door. “Its room service, I’m coming in.” He shouted as he turned the handle and opened the door.
He stood in the doorway for a second; to his right was the door to the en suite, ahead of him, a small hallway which curved round to the left towards the bedroom. “Hello, I’m inside of your room now, coming towards your bed area.” He said, taking a deep breath and walking past the en suite and around the corner.
Steve was hit instantly with a metallic smell, frozen with horror he surveyed the scene, his eyes the only thing capable of moving. On the bed lay a man and woman, both naked. The throw and pillows were splattered with blood and clumps of brain and hair.
The couple’s adenoidal mouths were agape and their eyes open, unblinking and rolled into the back of their heads. Steve’s stomach hit the floor and he wretched, the man’s chest bore two bullet holes, and a further bullet hole rested between his eyes. The naked woman lay backwards across his groin; her body covered in blood spatter, a bullet hole between her breasts and another also between her eyes.
Steve deposited his lunch at the foot of the bed, dry wretched some more before the adrenalin kicked in. He turned to leave the room and heard the en suite door open. Steve looked about himself, trying to guess where the best place to hide would be, but he had no time. Settling for pressing himself up against the wall next to the entrance to the room, he waited. His heart threatened to beat its way out of his chest, and he noticed he was holding his breath for way too long.
As he listened he heard the intruder’s footsteps which were soft and calm as he made his way down the hall. He wished to just be left alone, and even worse he knew that the killer was aware of his presence.
Then he entered the room and Steve launched at him, the fight or flight system fuelling him with adrenaline addled rage. If he could just take him off balance and wrest his weapon from him then he might have a chance of escaping. But before Steve even laid hands on the man’s black suit, he felt an intense pain like no other he’d ever felt flash through his shoulder, and fell back, clutching at the wound. Blood welled up through his fingers and across the back of his hand, soaking into his uniform.
The murderer didn’t say anything, but just crouched down next to him and pressed the barrel of the pistol into his temple. For the first time Steve saw his face, just an ordinary face of a mid forty year old man he thought to himself, not a face anyone would take any particular notice of. He looked like just another businessman in a suit, going about his daily business.
Adrenaline surged through Steve’s body now, fuelling his muscles as he threw all of himself up from the floor and into the man, they tumbled and the gun went thumping across the carpet. And then, Steve was on top, trying to hammer on the assailants face with his closed fists.
The man protected himself without effort, bringing up his elbows against Steve’s hammer fists, which made his knuckles crunch together painfully. Then Steve felt him raising a knee up between them and planting his foot deep into Steve’s abdomen, he felt his body tense up and knew what was coming next. The killer hit him with a swift left hook that numbed his awareness and bloodied his lip, he followed up with his elbow, smashing Steve’s nose, before kicking him off, using his abdomen as leverage. The force exerted on his stomach had caused Steve to void his bladder.
But as he fell against the wall he felt his fingers graze something, and before he knew it the pistol was in his hand and the man dived on him.
Steve pulled the trigger. The man fell back as blood spurted from his thigh. He looked frightened.
Steve didn’t even know what he was doing he just lifted the gun and fired, twice. The man keeled over backwards, dead.
The officer reached in and grabbed him with both hands, pulling him awkwardly through the driver’s side window. He landed on the floor at a funny angle, jarring his wounded shoulder, and making his stomach turn again.
“You try anything stupid and I won’t hesitate to paint the tarmac with your brains, you shit.” The man spat at him, “Now put your hands on your head and act like you’re getting arrested.”
Steve wanted to run, to shout out to the numerous cars speeding by for help, but he knew what it looked like. He looked like a criminal being arrested and no-one was going to question someone dressed as a police officer.
Once he had allowed the handcuffs to be slapped onto his wrists and for the fake officer to hoist him to his feet Steve began to silently cry at the inevitability of his situation, the tears burned hot on his face in the frigid weather outside. The fake officer dragged him over to the police car and bundled him in the back, bashing his head against the door frame in the process.
“Please” Steven whined, his own voice sounded pitiful even to himself.
“Shut up.” Grunted the driver.
Steve watched as the man who had thrown him in the back of the car got into his Land Rover and drove away. It wasn’t until he shuffled over a little that he realised that he wasn’t alone in the back. The man beside him didn’t move and was stripped down to his boxers. It wasn’t hard to make out all the blood. Steve emitted a strangled cry, horrified at the situation found himself in.
“You killed a good friend of mine” Said the driver, who wasn’t even dressed as a police officer, as he started up the car and smoothly pulled out into the flow of traffic again.
“He murdered an innocent couple in their bed!” Steve protested, glad that he had found his voice again.
“Nobody is innocent.” Was the reply.
“No one deserves to die like that.” Said Steve, but the driver remained silent after that. Secretly Steve hoped that if he pressed his bloodied face up against the window and screamed loud enough that somebody would come to his rescue, but he only thought he would look like a madman.
Instead he resolved to watch the back of the driver’s bald head, marked with a large birthmark stretching from the base of his skull up and over to his left ear.
After what felt like hours of aimless driving the man stopped the car, they were in a heavily forested area. After looking around the bald headed man swung open the car door and left. Steve felt his heart pounding against his ribcage, but he was helpless. He kept himself pushed as far away from the dead person as he could, he felt sick to his stomach.
Ten minutes had passed and the bald headed man returned, and his shoulder he carried a large shovel. He unlocked the car door, and motioned for Steve to exit. Steve did as he was told as the man held him at gunpoint. A spark of hope ignited the second the man took the cuffs off of his wrists, leaving sore red rings of puffy flesh where they had been tightened too much.
The man then slapped the shovel in his hands and told him to start digging. He did as he was told reluctantly, unsure on how to escape if he used all his energy digging. His adrenaline was running on empty now and his body was beginning to feel really heavy.
After ten minutes of digging Steve had his opportunity, the bald headed man had just come over to check how deep the hole was, when he came within striking distance of the shovel. Steve hefted it round cracking it viciously against his skull. There was a spray of blood and the man hit the floor.
Steve didn’t wait to see if he was going to get back up, he lifted himself out of the hole and began running through the trees. Gunshots began to ring out behind him signifying that the man was very much alive.
Steve was hungry and dehydrated, he knew he couldn’t go on much longer, and then he hit the road. A single pair of headlights flared in the distance. He began to run towards it, flailing his arms about like a survivor about to be rescued from a desert island after five years.
As the vehicle got closer he saw it was a SUV, perfect, he thought, for escaping in. But as it neared he stopped running and stood in the middle of the road in horror. It was his car.
It wasn’t slowing down.