Friday, June 5th, 2012
Mark Augustus Barrett did not love Lexi Hamilton. He liked her well enough, but not once did he consider leaving his wife for her. As far as he knew, Lexi didn’t expect him to either. She made no demands at all and said she was happy just to spend time with him. He showed up once or twice a week, did what unfaithful husbands do, and then went home to his wife. There was nothing wrong with that – as long as his wife, Holly, didn’t find out.
A technical engineer for a sophisticated website building company, his pay was above average. It just didn’t buy the kind of lifestyle he desired, so he was forever trying to come up with ways to earn a quick buck.
In the end, it was greed and a mistress that got him in so much trouble.
It was well past two a.m. when Mark Barrett parked the car and walked down the deserted street. He wore all black, including an oversized jacket with deep pockets, black socks, and a black baseball cap. The only thing colorful, when he walked under the corner streetlight, was his favorite blue slip-on tennis shoes.
Anxious and a lot more frightened than he expected to be, Mark paused at the end of the walkway that led to the house on the corner, and gazed up at the second-floor windows. All the lights in the house were out, just as he was assured they would be, but that didn’t calm his nerves much. Half a dozen times that week, he had walked or driven past the house until he knew where every bush, every tree, and every perspective hiding place was… just in case. He even walked down the alley, where the old woman’s cleaning lady set the trashcans out each week.
According to the person who hired him, the housekeeper only came twice a week, and never stayed overnight. Indeed, he expected his intended target to be all alone in a house that was far too large for just one person. Yet, that was not what frightened the handsome father of two. This was the first time he had ever done anything even closely resembling a crime punishable by death. He was certainly not above committing a petty theft now and then, especially from cars left unlocked – but murder?
Still, ten thousand dollars for one night of work sounded very nice, and he knew just how he would spend it. Besides, the odds of not getting caught were in his favor. People got away with it all the time.
When the streetlight suddenly went out, Mark saw that as a good sign, and breathed a little easier. He gathered his courage, glanced around to make certain no one was watching him, and walked up to the front door. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, put it over the doorknob and turned it. The door was unlocked. As quietly as he could, he slipped inside and gently pushed the door until it was almost closed. He stuffed the handkerchief in his pocket, pulled his cellphone out and turned on the flashlight. In his other pocket, he withdrew a short-barrel revolver with a silencer already attached. It was then he noticed his hands were shaking, so he forced himself to calm down.
Using the light on his cellphone, he located the staircase, walked across the large living room, and slowly began to climb. His detailed instructions, which he committed to memory, advised him to avoid the creaking third and eighth steps in the staircase, and to stay near the left wall when he turned down the hallway. So far, he had not made a sound. Yet, by the time he stopped not far from her bedroom door, he was so edgy and frazzled that he couldn’t seem to hold the gun steady. Once more, he took a moment to remind himself of all that glorious money.
Mark Barrett was about to reach for the bedroom doorknob when he realized his cellphone light was still on and quickly turned it off. As far as he knew, only one person had the number, and although he wasn’t expecting a call, certainly not just now, he turned the volume off just in case someone dialed a wrong number. He put the phone in his jacket pocket and then waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark.
That’s when he made his first mistake.
The door was not completely closed, and when he used his index finger to open it a little wider, he forgot to use his handkerchief. His instructions were wrong too. The house was not completely dark. The old woman had a nightlight next to her bed, and it gave off enough of a dim glow to illuminate her face.
Mark had not counted on being able to see more than just the head of a figure lying in a bed. For a long moment, he stared at her. The small woman looked nearly all swallowed up in her king-size bed. She had white hair, a round face, and nothing about her resembled the wealthy, unyielding tyrant he imagined her to be. Instead, she looked gentle and sweet.
Still, all he had to do was pull the trigger and ten thousand dollars was his.