By: Ed James

Part 1 -

"Christmas Steps"


23rd December 2013

Chapter 1

He tried to keep in the shadows as Steven opened the front door. Blinking, he stepped back as the taxi swept past the house before it trundled up the hill, headlights illuminating the wet street. He waited for it to pass and the dim glow of the street lights to return. "Can you not hurry up?"

A man passed them on the opposite side of the street, coat tucked tight against the rain, looking overweight. Had he seen them? His breath quickened.

"Got it." Steven fumbled with the front door, finally nudging it open. "Sorry about that. Too much to drink, obviously. Come on in."

"Thought you'd never ask."

Steven looked down at the cream carpet in the long hall. "Can you at least take off your shoes?"

"No." He smiled before walking through to the living room, flicking on the mother and child light by the sofa, but remained standing. "I'm fine as I am."

Still standing in the hall, Steven reached down to untie his own laces. "Can I get you a drink?"

"Now that would be good."

Steven marched across the wide room, switching a side light on. He paused in front of an oak cabinet behind a leather recliner, like he was going to say something, before pulling down the horizontal cabinet door, revealing a sizeable collection of spirits bottles. His hand hovered over them before settling on a whisky, black label embossed with silver. He sniffed it then poured healthy measures into a pair of glasses. "Here you go. Hope it's still to your taste."

"Dunpender, right?"

Steven took a sip and nodded, eyes staring into space. "Right."

He took the glass and wandered over to stand just to the left of the window, before sniffing the drink. Pure darkness. "Still think it's the best whisky in Scotland, Steven?"

"I like it. Get through a bottle every month."

"That's a lot of drinking."

"Helps with the stress. You know how it is."

"Don't I just." He finished the whisky in one, the liquid burning his tongue and throat. Sucking in a mouthful of air, letting it dampen the heat. Bliss. He held the glass up to the light and inspected the lines of the crystal.

Steven finished his dram and put his own glass down, hand shaking. "What is it you want?"

"A chat. One that can't wait. It's important."


"It just is."

"Come on. You dragged me from the pub to hear whatever it is."

"You'll want another drink."

"Do I?"

"Aye, I think so."

"I've had a skinful already." Steven turned his back and poured out another measure of Dunpender, his head bowed. "Fine."

He spotted a crystal quaich, Dunpender 100 etched into it, next to another tall bottle matching the design but gold replacing silver. "Nice little trinket you've got there."

Steven ran a finger over it and nodded. "Cost me a pretty penny."

"Disappointed you're not opening that one for me."

Steven sighed as he looked down at his glass. "Like I've got anything to celebrate."

"Quite." Taking a deep breath, he set the empty glass down on the dark brown window sill. He lashed out, connecting the base of his hand with the back of Steven's neck, forcing him against the cabinet, fingers clutching at the glass doors. Steven fell forwards, grasping for the hinge as he sprawled across the machined wood flooring, the bottle of Dunpender tumbling and smashing, a pool of gold liquid forming around his prone body.

Stepping forward, he followed through with kicks to Steven's stomach, head, balls. He kicked the head again. And again.

He knelt down, breathing heavily, fingers crawling up Steven's throat, clasping the pulse point. His heartbeat was faint.

Still alive. Good.

He dropped the toolbox in the middle of the living room, the trail of oil muddying the bleached wood of the floor, before sifting through the tools inside.

Pliers. Excellent.

Hammers. Two of them. Which one? The ball-peen for definite, its small head giving precision. The claw hammer was all about brute force. Maybe he'd need both.

He rummaged through the second layer of tools, finding a long cord, the sort used on a drying green. That's the ticket.

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