Revenge is the oldest motive to kill. And Samantha is consumed by revenge.
TO KILL A RAT By Jaci Gwyn
Samantha stared at the back end of the train disappearing into the fast developing dusk. What a fool she had been to jeopardize her escape. She had stayed too long savouring the heady wine of revenge. It would be irony indeed if, even in death, Oliver Renwick had the last laugh.
Samantha glanced swiftly around the small platform. Anyone might be watching from behind one of those dark windows of the station building. Turning back through the gate, she stood in the shadows, observing Lower Lumblymead’s main street.
The lights in the Blue Cow opposite the station showed the locals still quietly sipping. But they would be off home soon. She could not afford to be seen and remembered. So, what to do next?
The hotel was out. She did not want to be around when they found Oliver stretched out on his living- room carpet. Hiring a car was out too. Her driving licence showed her real name. There was only one thing to do; walk the four miles to Stowminster. She might be able to get herself lost there.
Samantha stepped out onto the road. She walked past a few cottages, met no one and was soon walking with easy swinging strides into the countryside, bright with a high September moon.
As she walked she marvelled at her own calmness. She had actually killed a man. She had become obsessed with revenge since discovering that Oliver Renwick had killed her identical twin sister, Margaret. But would she really have gone through with it if he hadn’t made that vicious grab for her?
Their parents’ divorce had separated her and Margaret when they were barely two years old. Samantha had gone with their father to America while Margaret had stayed in England with their mother, who had died only two years ago.
The fervour of growing up had buried Samantha’s vague memory of a sister and mother. It was not until her father’s death just after her twenty-fifth birthday that she learned he had left his considerable wealth to be divided equally between Margaret and herself, making them both extremely wealthy young women.
Delighted that she was not really alone in the world after all, Samantha journeyed to England to renew her relationship with her twin. But she was too late.
After receiving her legacy Margaret had married Oliver Renwick. They had bought a villa in Marbella. Within a month Margaret had drowned in a boating accident. Oliver Renwick returned to England and had gone to ground in the backwater of Lower Lumblymead. A growing, burning hatred for Oliver Renwick festered in her heart and made her remain in England, waiting for the right opportunity.
Lower Lumblymead was a small village. A sophisticated-looking stranger would be examined too closely. She needed a genuine reason for being there. Then she read that Isobel Cotfield, Lower Lumblymead’s own home-grown romantic novelist had her latest book nominated for the Denzier Award for the best Romantic Fiction of the Year. She rang Isobel calling herself Miss Wood and asked for an interview as a freelance. The novelist seemed only too pleased to agree.
Samantha had been amused at her warm welcome. Isobel Cotfield was tall, elegant and extremely garrulous. All the morning had been spent on the interview. At last Isobel suggested a working lunch and as they sat down to eat a tall man in a much worn tweed jacket came into the dining room.
‘Darling, just popped in to say I’ll be back late,’ he announced.
‘This is Miss Wood.’ Isobel introduced them. ‘She’s interviewing me about my book.’
There was a nod and a quick appraisal from deep grey eyes. Attractive, Samantha thought.
‘Nice to meet you, Miss Wood. Sorry, can’t stop.’ Then he was gone. '
'Does your husband help you with your writing?’ Samantha asked vaguely, her thoughts on the real encounter later.
Isobel’s laughter tinkled.‘Good heaven, no!’ She seemed highly amused by the question.
Samantha managed to leave not long after. Just outside the gates of the Cotfields’ house a sign said “To Station Lane”, where Oliver Renwick had his cottage.
She slipped speedily along the narrow lane, her plan being to deal with Oliver as soon as they came face to face, then make a dash for the three-twenty train to London.
Samantha smiled to herself now in the September moonlight, savouring again the moment when Oliver had answered her knock. She’d had her hair styled exactly like Margaret’s. The Californian sun had darkened her skin it was true , but pictures of her sister had shown that neither time nor separation had made any difference to their looks.
On seeing her standing there his initial polite smile disappeared to be replaced with acute shock. It was with some satisfaction that Samantha watched his handsome face turn a rather dingy grey.
‘Hello, Oliver. Surprise, surprise!’ She knew her accent would break the spell.
‘Who the hell are you? Is this some kind of sick joke?’ His face suffused with colour again, an angry red, but Samantha detected a tremor beneath his brusque tones.
‘The point is, Oliver,’ she said. ‘Who do you think I am? Certainly not Margaret. After all, you killed her yourself, didn’t you?’
With a choking gasp he backed into the centre of the living-room, and Samantha followed swiftly, closing the door behind her.
‘Who are you?’ He was badly shaken.
‘I guess Margaret didn’t tell you about me. Pity. She’d probably been alive now if she had. I’m her twin.’
He stared at her for a moment. ‘You’re insane,’ he said at last. ‘Margaret drowned; a tragic accident. We were very much in love.’
Samantha smiled grimly. ‘We both know poor Margaret was chronically hydrophobic. Nothing on earth would have induced her to step into a boat.’ She put her hand into her coat pocket, her fingers closing over the .32 pistol, a gift from her father for her protection. ‘My guess is,’ she continued slowly, watching his eyes. ‘Margaret was unconscious, probably drugged when you put her into the water.’
Samantha’s hand made a fist over the gun. He must have seen death in her eyes for she saw fear in his and then rage. He lunged forward. She didn’t have time to clear the gun. She fired upward through the coarse tweed of her coat. It was impossible to miss at that range and the slug penetrated the centre of his forehead. The impact halted his forward momentum somewhat but still he fell face down on the carpet.
She stared down at him for a moment more and then rallied. Her watch said three-twenty-five already; too late for the train. It would never do to be hanging around the railway station for hours. Best to remain here, out of sight and escape under cover of darkness. Coolly stepping over the body she drew the living-room curtains and locked the cottage door.
During the long wait for dusk no one came near the cottage, but when she was about to leave two women appeared near the gate chatting. They stayed there long enough for her to miss that last train and her booked flight to New York. Her hope of getting out of the country before Oliver was found was dashed.
It was no use fretting over it she told herself sternly as she swung along the narrow road to Stowminster. She must be thankful for the warm pleasant night and her sensible shoes. Four miles wasn’t so far. She’d make it despite everything.
The car was on her before she realised it. There was nowhere she could have concealed herself. The car passed her, stopped after few yards and then backed up. The passenger door was pushed open.
‘Need any assistance? Want a lift to Stowminster?’ He was just a shadowy figure, but Samantha hesitated for only a moment. She felt safe with the gun still nestling in her pocket.
She slipped into the passenger seat and closed the door. He released the clutch and the car moved forward.
‘Why, its Miss Wood isn’t it? I thought you'd left Lower Lumblymead hours ago.’ he said. Samantha stiffened in her seat, her mouth suddenly dry. ‘I’m Dan Cotfield. Isobel’s husband.’
‘Of course.’ Samantha let out her breath slowly. ‘I stayed too long visiting some friends. Missed the train.’
‘Couldn’t they have put you up?’
Samantha laughed. ‘Not on their honeymoon.’
‘The hotel then?’ He sounded puzzled.
Before Samantha’s busy mind could think of a reply, there was a sound that made her blood run cold; the crackle of a shortwave radio.
‘Control to Echo Lima.’
‘Cotfield here. What’s up?’
‘Chief Superintendent, there’s been a shooting at Plum Tree Cottage, Station Lane. Victim is a man named Oliver Renwick. Sergeant Cooper is at the scene.’
‘Tell Cooper I’m on my way.’
Chief Inspector Cotfield brought the car to a stop. He was still for a moment while Samantha held her breath.
‘Just why are you walking a dark, unfamiliar country road at this hour, Miss Wood? Do you know a man called Oliver Renwick? I want the truth this time.’
Samantha’s fingers touched the gun in her pocket, but all her hatred had died with Oliver. Suddenly feeling limp she leaned back in the seat.
‘Oliver Renwick was a rat!’ she answered with feeling. ‘All I did was exterminate him.’
© Gwen Madoc
Reader Reviews for
"To Kill A Rat"
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|Reviewed by Sankar Sukumaran
|Not really impressive.|
|Reviewed by Sheila Roy
|The very first line pulled me into this story. Intriguing and well told! The ending surprised me but the story does come full circle. Great write!