He woke with a start, not knowing what had disturbed his sleep. Closing his eyes to the darkness, he rearranged his pillow and his legs. Something was wrong.
He couldn’t hear the refrigerator gurgling and rattling in the kitchen. He raised his head to hear better but still no gurgling and rattling. He waited for it to start again. It didn’t. He decided it must have finally died. After all, it was at least eighteen years old. He would have to find the money to buy a new one but he would worry about that tomorrow.
He lay there for a while before he realized he couldn’t hear the soft hum of the air conditioner. He listened for other sounds. He heard nothing. Nothing but silence.
He wondered if he had suddenly gone deaf; if something had gone wrong in his head while he slept. Perhaps something had crawled into his ears, blocking out all sound. His heart beat faster at the idea and he thought he heard it thumping in his chest. He wasn’t deaf after all. To make sure, he spoke his own name, “Bert Fitzsimmons.” He added, “You are not deaf.
He sat up to check the time on his electric bed side clock. The screen was dark without even a flashing light. “That’s it”, he thought, “The powers off.” He hoped he would be able to make toast for breakfast.
He became aware of other sounds. A distant motor vehicle, a dog barking. Other sounds were closer, inside the house. The sound of rubber soled shoes on the kitchen linoleum, soft but unmistakable. Then came the barely audible sound of footfall on the carpeted hallway.
They had come for him at last just as he always believed they would. He had changed his name, his face and his story and moved here twenty years ago and told himself they would never find him. He had never really believed that story. He always knew they would come for him.
He could slip out the window and make a run for it but he was older now. There would be two of them and they would outrun him.
Bert called out. “You don’t have to get violent. I will confess to the police and they will put me away. I’ll get life.”
There was no reply. “If you’re going to kill me, get it over and done with. Quick like. The old woman didn’t suffer. She was dead before she hit the floor. I wouldn’t have hit her if she hadn’t gotten in the way. I had no choice.”
He heard the sound of breathing and not just his own. “Shut up and do as you are told.” What felt like a cricket bat was shoved into his chest.
“Honest to God, I didn’t mean to kill her. All I wanted was her diamonds.”
“I said shut up. Now get out of bed.” A torch was shone in his face.
Bert got out of bed, tightening the draw string in his pyjamas as he did so. “I suppose I had this coming. How did you find me? At least tell me that. You were little fellows then and you yelled at me that you would get even with me one day for hurting your Granny.”
This time the jab with the cricket bat was hard. A “Umph” sound escaped from Bert’s mouth as air was forced from his lungs and he felt a rib or two crack.
“Hand over your wallet, your credit cards, pin numbers, car keys and watch for starters.”
From the glow of the torch, he saw they were big fellows, clad in black, their eyes the only thing showing. He complied with their request, wondering why they didn’t just help themselves after they had killed him. Maybe they planned to take him somewhere to torture him.
“I never meant to harm Granny.”
“Our Granny never had no diamonds. She is waiting for us outside and she doesn’t like delays. Stop mucking around and hand over your phone and laptop and anything else worth a quid or two.” He got another jab in the ribs.
They took everything of value and smashed a good deal of the rest. As they left, one of them said,” You tell anyone about this and I am sure the cops would be interested in that story about the Granny you didn’t mean to hurt.”