Fiona was dragged from the depths of a murky sleep as the rooster in the nearby farm started to crow. As she peeled back her eyelids, she noticed that Gareth, had already showered and dressed in a pair of neatly ironed Marks & Spencer’s jeans, and his lucky plaid shirt.
In the wan light, she watched him as he took the soft boiled eggs from the pan and put them in the candy-striped egg cups. He took the lightly toasted bread from the toaster and carefully cut it into soldiers. Then he poured two cups of tea.
He was still a good looking man, she thought. And as fit as a fiddle as he approached his mid-fifties. She was sure he’d been for his regular morning jog while she’d been asleep. He’d been a bundle of nervous energy since the redundancy. He’d even tidied the motor home and had hung the wash on the line outside.
Gareth saw that she was awake, smiled at her and opened the curtains. “Busy day, today, luv,” as he handed her a cup of tea.
“Oh, yes,” Fiona said. “Up and at’ em.”
Gareth switched on the radio and they listened to Classic FM in silence, waiting for and dreading any news announcement that might come.
After breakfast, Fiona showered and changed into jeans and a shirt that was pretty much identical to Gareth’s. He was sitting on the motor home’s step, trimming his beard. Deep in thought.
She stepped past him and breathed in the fresh county air. It was a bracing, honey-coloured spring morning.
“Get it while you can, eh?” he said.
“Oh, I’m sure France will be just as beautiful. If not more so,” Fiona said.
“I’m sure you’re right,” he said, not sounding convinced.
They both went back inside.
Almost ready?” he packed two rucksacks.
She nodded and handed him a green anorak before putting on hers.
They locked up and headed off, at a brisk but steady pace, uphill towards Innersmouth village. Fiona started to whistle an old folk song but stopped when she remembered her mother telling her that a whistling woman conjured up the devil.
Superstitious nonsense, of course but better not to tempt providence, she thought.
Innersmouth’s tiny post office wasn’t due to open for at least another half an hour, but the Postmaster would hopefully be arriving soon enough, so Fiona and Gareth sat on the cemetery wall, drinking from a bottle of Evian. Not before long, the post van rattled up the road and parked at the back of the building.
Gareth and Fiona put on their black sunglasses and baseball caps, and walked toward the post office. As the Postmaster opened the front door, Gareth stepped up to him.
“Excuse, me. Would you mind if I asked you a favour?” said Gareth.
“I … what?” said the Postmaster. He fiddled with his hearing aid and squinted, as he took in the identically dressed pair.
“A favour,” shouted Gareth.
The Postmaster looked panicked, flustered.
“We’re not open yet,” he said. ‘Come back later.’
“No time,” shouted Fiona. She pushed a large black hand-gun in his face.
They all stepped into the musky smelling room. Gareth closed the door behind him.
“Give me your cash,” Gareth said. “Quickly.”
“We’re not open,” stuttered the Postmaster. “You’ll have to …”
“Get a move on!” Gareth grabbed the Postmaster by the collar.
Fiona felt light-headed as she waited for the Postmaster to do as he was told. Sweat prickled her body. She was red faced and her head was pounding.
And then the door burst open.
Fiona recoiled in disgust as she gazed upon the disheveled sight staggering around before her. He was in his late teens. Acne scarred and slovenly dressed, with a spaced out look. Probably a drug addict from one of the council estates, she thought; or a drunk that had been in a fight. Some lowlife leech, she was sure. He was probably there to collect the money that he sponged from the state while her poor husband couldn’t even find a job. Her blood boiled.
Lowlife!” shouted Fiona, as the youth tumbled towards her.
Gareth moved quickly, using the judo moves he’d learned in the Territorial Army, and he threw the boy onto the floor. The postmaster was babbling something but Gareth ignored him and pinned the wretch to the ground.
And then Fiona moved into position, pointed the handgun and fired. The gun jumped in her hand and the shot blasted the ceiling. Plaster snow flaked the room.
“Bugger,” she said.
“Careful, luv,” grunted Gareth, as he held down the struggling scumbag.
Fiona took a breath. Aimed and blew the teenager’s head to bits, splashing Gareth and the Postmaster.
“Well done!” said Gareth, as he stood up.
He took a towel from his rucksack, wiped himself and handed another towel to the quivering, sobbing postmaster.
“Now, about that money.”
Back at the motor home, Gareth made a strong pot of tea with extra sugar to help steady Fiona’s nerves. She massaged her temples and thought that Gareth looked the happiest he’d been for a long time. In fact, since he’d been made redundant from the security firm. Those had been dark days. But then he’d had one of his brainwaves. Gareth was always thinking ahead, thought Fiona.
“Where’s the next stopover?” Fiona asked, sipping from her tea.
“A supermarket just outside Dover. I worked there the week before I got my redundancy notice. Remember me telling you about it?”
He opened a packet of custard cream biscuits, put them on a small china plate and offered them to Fiona.
“The one where the rude old Polish woman worked?”
She took a biscuit and dunked it in her tea.
“That’s the one,” he said. “We’ll get some supplies and a bit more cash for the trip.”
“And then on to the ferry?”
“We’ll be in Calais before midnight.”
“Vive La France!”
They toasted with their mugs of tea.
She picked up a road map.
“Let’s get moving as quickly as possible,” she said.
“Put that away, luv,” Gareth said. “I told you, the Sat Nav will do the trick. We’ve got to get with the times. The times they are a-changing, eh?”
He kissed her on the cheek.
“Like it or not.” She dipped her biscuit back into her tea and then watched it crumble onto the coffee table as soon as she took it out.
This story was first included in the anthology:
Shotgun Honey Presents: Both Barrels