Alissa Milford stepped in the living room to arrange some fresh flowers in the vase; though nobody was visiting her but she liked everything in a particular fashion. She lived alone and managed her life really well; she kept herself occupied with work, reading and gardening. Intrigued by a single lady living alone in a big house, her elderly neighbour started observing her. As Alissa sat down on the steps of her house on a sultry summer day, Mr Caffery moved away from the window so she couldn’t spot him. As an old man who was new to this neighbourhood, he was certainly looking for excitement but not trouble. He opened the bottle of Merlot and poured himself some wine.
Unaware of her neighbour’s curiosity, Alissa spent the entire evening sitting outside. Mr Caffery secretly observed her. For Mr Caffery, she was a little strange, her movements properly scheduled and her life unbelievingly systematic. But she was also someone who occupied this retired man’s life in this new neighbourhood. The curiosity of knowing more about Alissa was taking a toll on Mr Caffery’s blood pressure and finally he went ahead to meet her on a very humid evening. Alissa welcomed him and invited him for a drink. They went to her living room and she brought some wine. Her house was neat and decorated mostly with books related to Computer and Art. Mr Caffery was pleased to meet a well read woman and asked if he could browse through her books. She happily nodded and even took him to her study, where she said, she spent most of her time.
The study was a mini library with books decked up neatly in wall to wall racks. The books were categorised into sections and a lovely painting adorned the only bare wall of the room. He strolled across each section and bent to have a close look at the book on the table; it was a recent best seller. He also spotted a Limited Edition Mont Blanc with ‘A’ engraved on it. He took the pen and rubbed his wrinkled fingers on the engraving.
‘So you also collect luxury pens?’ he asked without taking his eyes off it.
‘It’s a gift from one of my ex boyfriends,’ she said casually as if the gift has no value.
‘He must be really rich,’ he said and kept the pen on the table.
‘Rich and Boring! Would you mind another drink?’ she asked with a perfect smile.
Both relished the drink and talked about art; about Raphael, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso; about the evolution of modern art; about every single thing related to art. He was impressed with Alissa’s knowledge of art, she knew the strokes, the oils and she had an eye for detail. Mr Caffery was enjoying the evening, the drink and the lovely company. Alissa had so much to share; she invited Mr Caffery for dinner on Friday to which he politely and happily agreed.
On Friday night Mr Caffery came sharp at 7 and brought a bottle of wine. She prepared a light meal which they relished. They talked about everything from the harsh summer to the rising rate of unemployment. Alissa was very talkative and Mr Caffery was a very good listener. Both enjoyed the evening. After dinner, they went in the study with the bottle of wine Mr Caffery brought. She poured the wine in two glasses and they continued talking...
'You seem to read a lot about technology too, you worked with Software,’ he asked holding his glass and looking at the Technology section of the rack.
‘No, I was fascinated by hacking in my teens, I read for fun,’ she said sipping from her glass.
‘So you can hack a little bank if we both want to light up this evening,’ he quizzed her.
‘Sure! For fun we can even rob a big bank or a jewellery store,’ she played along.
‘Or someone’s house who happen to have a young son with loads of valuables,’ he said with a stern look.
She was shocked but couldn't move her body. The poison had started working; her limbs were numb and power of speech subdued. She stared at the old man in total disbelief, who took the Mont Blanc kept on the table in his hands, dipped it in wine and went to the painting that hung on the wall. He started scratching the painting with the wet pen exactly where the original painter signed it.
‘What are you doing? What is in this wine?’ she asked the old man who was busy working with the pen and painting.
He smiled when he saw the words 'Claude Monet.’ The painting was a ‘Monet’ stolen from his house seven years ago which was now repainted to hide its originality. Police failed to catch the thieves who they believed were known to the family. Robbers seemed to be technology experts who hacked the security system of the house and shot their only son Adrian, who came home when the robbers were about to leave. Mrs Caffery died of heart attack after hearing the death of their son and Mr Caffery was left alone. Alissa tried to reach the rack where she hid her pistol but her body refused. She could only look and speak.
‘How do you know all this?’ she fumbled.
‘I spotted the pen I gave Adrian on his 18th birthday, which he told me he gifted his girl friend who deserved it better, for she loved books,’ Mr Caffery said holding the pen really close to his heart.
‘I’m sorry, we never wanted to shoot him; he spotted me and it was too risky,’ she said and froze.
Mr Caffery tucked the pen in his pocket, took the painting off the wall and walked away...
*I’m learning the art of writing short stories, criticism is most welcome.