The Day That Eddie Bowman Met His Maker

Submitted into Contest #208 in response to: Write a story where the characters start to realize that they are, in fact, just characters.... view prompt

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Fantasy Fiction Suspense

I seem to have a problem with my memory - I can recall driving past the ‘Welcome to Heyton’ sign on reaching the village, but nothing prior to that. I hadn’t even known my name, until the pen I’d been holding scrawled the words ‘Eddie Bowman’ on the guest register of The White Lion, where I’d somehow known that a room had been pre-booked for me.

Heyton seems to be a perfect slice of Olde England. The village green, centred around a huge maypole, is ringed by The White Lion, The Kings Arms, the picturesque Norman church and the local shop. Between these four buildings are what tourists' guides might call ‘chocolate-box cottages’, each of them fronted by a minuscule rose-laden garden. I’m guessing that the green would normally be a vacant grassy space, but today it’s filled to bursting with the empty stalls and silent fairground rides that are due to feature in tomorrow’s annual county fair. I know about the fair because I saw a poster pinned to the wall behind the reception desk. Looks like it’s the big event of the year around these parts.

Five minutes after checking in, I’m studying the contents of my suitcase, which I’ve unpacked and laid out on the bed. I can understand the reason for the extra suit of clothes and the shower bag, but some of the other items are a mystery. I’ve brought my passport, which is fair enough, but it’s the four extra ones that are puzzling me. They all show the same face in the photo I.D. - mine - but each of them bears a different name and nationality. It seems that I sometimes have cause to pass myself off as French, Russian, Canadian or Swedish. Perhaps I am French, and the UK one I found first belongs with the counterfeit ones? No, despite my current lack of self knowledge, all the thoughts going around in my head have an English accent, so I assume that’s the genuine document.

And there’s something else that’s causing my heart to beat a little faster.

There on the bed, lying beside the spare socks and underwear, are the components of a high-powered rifle, complete with sniper viewfinder. As disconcerting as the rifle itself is the fact that I recognise it as a variant of the Finnish SAKO TRG 42, complete with folding stock. Before I can even begin to come up with a credible answer as to why I’m carrying such a weapon - or even any weapon - around with me, the telephone rings from the bedside table.

‘Hello?’ I say.

A woman’s voice answers me. ‘Be in the bar in five minutes. We’ll go through the final details, okay?’ She ends the call abruptly, preventing me from asking any questions. As doing what she says looks like the only way I can get some answers, I decide to follow her instructions. I re-pack the suitcase, lock it, and slide it under the bed. Out of sight, but not out of mind. Downstairs, I order a drink and find an empty table. The public lounge is busy, and the air is filled with the hum of conversation and clinking glasses. But then the room falls silent, as though someone has pressed the ‘pause’ button. The reason for the change in mood is the smartly dressed woman, probably in her early forties, who has just walked in. Somehow, I know this is who I’m waiting for, so I raise my hand, attracting her attention. She gives a nod of acknowledgement in return. As soon as she takes a step in my direction, the button is released, and the familiar sounds of a busy English pub return.

She sits down and places a blue cardboard folder on the table top. ‘Hello, Eddie. How are you feeling today?’

Even though she seems familiar to me, I can’t quite put a name to her face. ‘I’m fine. And you are…?’

The niceties appear to be over before they’ve even started. ‘Never mind the small talk. Let’s get straight down to business.’ She opens the folder and takes out photographs of two men, which she places on the table. ‘The fair starts tomorrow, and Heyton will be packed with visitors. That’s when you're going to do it,’ she says.

‘Do what?’

‘What you’re here for - kill one of them.’ She gestures at the photos.

Well, that explains the rifle. At least now I know something about myself - apparently, I’m an assassin, and I’ve come here to end someone’s life.

Mrs X carries on talking. ‘When I reserved your room, I made sure it overlooked the green. In the morning, I want you in position by the window at eleven o’clock sharp. I’ll be having a last talk with each of these two, and then I’ll decide which one’s for the chop. At five past, I’ll stand beside whoever I’ve chosen, and I’ll point him out to you. That’ll be the signal, and then it’s, Bang - mission accomplished!’ Her voice has climbed a few decibels as she says these last words, and the couple sitting at the next table look in our direction. But only for a second - they soon avert their gaze when my companion gives them the evil eye.

‘How do you know they’ll be there? And why do it in such a public space, with so many witnesses?’ I ask.

Her voice takes on a harder tone. ‘They’ll be there because I’ve arranged it, and you’ll do it like this because I say so, okay?’

No, not really, but I’ve still got some more questions. One in particular. ‘And what about an exit strategy? I won’t be able to just pack my gear up and walk away through the crowd, will I?’

‘Don’t worry about that - I’ve got something worked out.’

I keep digging. ‘Do I need to know what they’ve been up to? And why one rather than the other?’

‘Let’s just say it’s time for someone to die, and it’s come down to these two. But you never know - I might call on you to finish the other one off later on, anyway.’ She checks her watch. ‘I’ll give you an hour to wind down, then go upstairs and get some rest. Make sure you’re ready at eleven tomorrow.’ She stands, and once again an eerie stillness descends, lifted only when the door swings shut behind her as she leaves the room.

Who the hell does this woman think she is, ‘giving’ me an hour? She didn’t suggest that I get some rest, but that I will get some. She may be paying for my services, but I’m not going to be her puppet. I can’t believe I didn’t tell her where to go - maybe I need the money more than I need the self-esteem? I can’t figure out why she’s so sure of herself - she seemed so certain that everything is going to happen exactly as she wants it to. And if I’m a professional, why have I accepted without question her claim to have something ‘worked out’ regarding my escape route? Surely that’s even more important than the pay packet? To try and shed some light on the situation, I have a chat with the landlord, and uncover a couple of interesting facts. The first is that Mrs X’s real name is Helen Barron, and the second is that Helen is staying in room eight, just two doors down the corridor from my own. I’m about to sit back down with a fresh drink when I suddenly feel exhausted and struggle to keep my eyes open.

The last thing I remember is looking up at the clock behind the bar and realising that it was exactly sixty minutes ago that I’d been so generously granted an hour to myself.

The next thing I know, I’m waking up in my room, and the morning sun is filtering through the curtains. By ten forty-five, I’ve finished all my usual preparations, and I’m standing at the window, looking out over the green. Excited children are queueing for their turn on the fairground rides, while their parents try to win fluffy toys from the rifle ranges and the other stalls that fill the gaps between the carousels and the flying cars. 

And then I see her - Helen, out and about, mingling with the early revellers. The sight stirs something to life in a corner of my brain, and I realise this means I have a chance to visit her room, try to find a little more about her - and possibly about myself, while I’m at it. I walk down to the reception counter. There’s no-one around, so I slip behind it and pocket the hotel’s master key, which is hanging from its hook in full view. Back upstairs, I use it to unlock the door to room eight.

Once inside, I’m not sure what I’m looking for, other than some kind of clue about what’s going on here. A vintage typewriter is sitting on the desk, and next to it is the blue folder that she was carrying yesterday. There’s a sheet of paper in the typewriter, half-filled with print. I turn the cylinder so I can read what Helen’s been typing.

*

The Kill Syndicate - Chapter 19

Eddie meets his Maker

Eddie Bowman of The Kill Syndicate was among the best in the business, with a reported body count approaching three figures. His terms couldn’t be simpler - if the price was right, he'd do it, and no questions asked. Eddie had no qualms about disposing of government officials, rival businessmen, or cheating husbands. Nor were their families and children out of bounds, should the fine print ask for it.

Nat Waters was rich, powerful, and ruthless - a typical client of The Syndicate. He had an itch, and enough money to pay someone to scratch it. His instructions to Eddie were simple - drive to the quaint English village of Heyton and kill ?

*

It looks like Helen has only recently started work on this chapter, as it ends there, complete with a question mark standing in for the name of the target. She's left her notepad next to the typewriter, open at the latest page. I pick it up and read the notes that she’s scribbled down in blue ink.

*

•                Need to decide who Eddie kills.

•                  After the shooting, the police corner Eddie and hand him over to UKSS. They torture him, forcing him to give up the names of his bosses in The Syndicate, and then execute him.

*

I go back to my room, with the words ‘body count’, ‘torture’ , and ‘execute’ taking turns to replace each other at the front of my mind. Reading the brief excerpt of Chapter 19 seems to have flicked a switch in my previously non-existent memory banks, because now I’m able to remember every one of those kills that I appear to have accumulated, and I wish I couldn’t.

I know now I’m nothing but a figment of her imagination – she needed a murderer, and she created me.

Looking out of the window again, I see that Helen is still walking among the crowd, tapping a shoulder here, grabbing an elbow there, manoeuvring the villagers into the positions that she wants, like a film director preparing a scene. Okay - she’s in charge out there, but I decide I won’t be hanging around for UKSS - whoever they are - to do their worst on me.

I’ve already assembled the rifle, and I settle the stock against my shoulder. I use the viewfinder to search amongst the smiling faces until I have her in my sights. I now know that by killing Helen - my creator - I’ll also be bringing down the curtain for myself and everyone in the village.

You’ve brought his on yourself, Helen. I now know it’s going to be all be over for everybody in Heyton - the landlord, the drinkers in the bar, the children on the green – the very moment  you type ‘The End’, anyway, so what difference will vanishing into the void a few hours early mean to any of us?

But this time, ‘us’ includes you.

I recognise the man Helen is standing next to - his photograph was one of those in the folder. She looks directly at me and raises her hand, signalling that he’s the one she’s chosen. I focus through the viewfinder until the cross-hairs are centred on his forehead. After a couple of seconds, though, I shift my aim by a few degrees, and the smile on Helen’s face disappears as she realises that she herself is now my target. I slowly squeeze the trigger. A red dot appears between her unbelieving eyes and she falls to the ground, dead.

Bang - mission accom…

The End

July 24, 2023 18:31

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4 comments

Carla Chapman
00:07 Aug 05, 2023

Love this...the whole set up. Kind of like a sting in short form. Very well done!

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Shaun Ledger
15:54 Aug 13, 2023

Hi Carla - thank you for reading and for your comments.

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06:34 Aug 03, 2023

This is very well done. The reveal of finding her manuscript answers all the readers questions and the title is so clever. You have good dialogue and scene setting. Very nice

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Shaun Ledger
15:41 Aug 03, 2023

Hi, Anne - thank you for your positive comments.

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