The clock chimed 8pm and Jessica looked up from the computer. She saved the household budget sheet that her husband, Robert insisted she fill in each day.
As she stretched, she heard a soft whine.
The Labrador waddled over to her and sat down, staring into her eyes.
‘Don’t look at me like that! You know I can’t resist your big, brown eyes!’
The dog’s eyes looked even sadder and Jessica laughed out loud as she reached down and gave him a cuddle.
‘You’re a terrible dog, Billy!’
She kissed the top of his head. ‘Come on, then! Let’s get your lead.’
She glanced outside and saw that rather than easing, the rain was heavier than ever. Sighing, she resigned herself to getting wet.
‘Billy! It’s pouring! We’ll get soaked!’
Billy whined softly again.
‘I know! I know! Don’t worry, just wait until I get my coat. And boots.’
Jessica opened the door and the full force of the weather threatened to engulf her.
‘Right Billy! We’ll go up the road, but only as far as the oak tree. No dragging me into the woods today! It’s far too wet!’
Billy bounded out into the rain.
‘Come here, Billy! I need to put your lead on! You can’t go on the road without a lead! You know that! Come here!’
Billy came running back and bounced around her in delight. She bent down and, on the third attempt, managed to click his lead in place. With a laugh, she set off at a fast pace, trying to keep up with him.
‘Slow down! My hood won’t stay up. I don’t want to get my hair wet!’
Billy took no notice as he pulled her along. He stopped briefly at the gate and waited for her to open it, before charging up the road with Jessica laughing behind him.
‘You’re full of beans today! Are you hoping to chase some of those rabbits again? Not a hope today!’
Billy stopped suddenly, to sniff a piece of grass and Jessica nearly fell over him.
‘You could at least warn me!’
She gasped as Billy set off once again, almost pulling her over this time.
The oak tree came into view and Jessica sighed with relief. The rain continued to pour down and she could feel the water starting to soak through her runners.
‘Damn! I forgot to put my boots on! Hurry up Billy! Here’s your favourite patch of grass. Don’t be long now!’
Billy seemed unable to decide where he wanted to relieve himself. She turned him back towards the house and set off, stopping and starting as Billy dictated.
‘I thought you were desperate!’
Billy continued to sniff every blade of grass, trying to find the perfect place. Jessica pulled the hood of her anorak tighter and suppressed a shiver. Rain dripped onto her face and she reached up and wiped it away impatiently.
‘Billy! Stop sniffing everything! I’m getting soaked!’
A sharp tug on the leash brought Billy’s attention back to her.
‘Come on! It’s getting dark!’
Jessica set off again along the quiet road. Damn! She had forgotten to bring a torch with her. It had been light when they left but the heavy downpour had caused the light to fade quicker than she expected.
The torch would have made her feel safer if a car came along the road. Her dark anorak would make her hard to see. She consoled herself with the thought that this road was usually quiet with the heavier traffic preferring to use the main road rather than this narrower road.
They weren’t too far from home now but the rain didn’t seem to be easing off. Her husband would be home soon and if she wasn’t waiting for him, he would wonder where she was.
She thought of the bottle of wine waiting for her and wished she had lit the fire earlier. A nice roaring fire would have been just the ticket on a night like this.
Robert would have said she was indulging herself but sometimes a little indulgence went a long way.
With a sigh, she made a mental note to buy some fire-lighters from the little shop in the village the next chance she got. Central heating was all very well but you couldn’t beat an open fire for turning a house into a home.
Sometimes Jessica thought with longing, of her parent’s home with it’s warm, welcoming feeling and wished her own house felt like that.
She often thought that she hardly knew Robert any more. He was so seldom at home these days. His work seemed to take up more and more of his time as the months passed.
At first, they had been blissfully happy but something had changed. She wasn’t sure what; she just knew that something was different now.
She tugged at the dog’s leash again.
‘Come on Billy! I’ve got a new packet of chocolate drops for you. Your favourite! Good boy! Come on, then!’
Billy looked up suddenly and began to wag his tail. Too late, she realised that he was not looking at her.
Jessica spun around in time to see the man reach for her. He was wearing a raincoat with the hood pulled up, partially hiding his face.
She screamed but he put his hand roughly over her mouth cutting off the sound. She could taste the sweat from his palm and it made her gag.
‘Shut up, bitch! There’s no-one around to hear you!’
Jessica could smell the rank odour of his breath as she fought to breathe through her nose. His hand was hurting her mouth and she gasped at the pain, as he squashed her lips, hard against her teeth.
‘Stop struggling, bitch.’
She frantically tried to kick and scratch him but he pulled her closer so she could feel his body against her back. He brought his face close to her and breathed in her ear.
‘You didn’t expect to see me now, did you? I told you I’d be back before you knew it! Still refusing to do as you are told? I told you you’d be sorry! You didn’t believe me but now you will!’
As his hands closed tightly around her throat, everything began to go black. Just before she lost consciousness, Jessica realised who it was as she heard him laughing. The last thing she heard was his voice in her ear.
‘I warned you, bitch! I said I would make you pay!’
The killer allowed her body to fall to the cold, wet ground. Her dog was milling around unsure what was happening and whining all the while.
The man kicked out suddenly, catching the dog in the ribs.
‘Go home! Go on! Get home, now!’
He threatened to kick the dog again and with a
howl, Billie raced back towards the house leaving his mistress lying in the pouring rain.
The killer looked down at his handiwork and nodded to himself.
A job well done! He liked to get job satisfaction no matter what he was working on. Somehow, it made it all worthwhile.
With a last look into Jessica’s wide-open eyes, the killer smiled and then turned away. His car was half-hidden in a side-lane under the trees a little further along the road.
Without another glance at the dead woman, he hunched his shoulders against the rain and walked back to his car.