Murder in Mind… a short story by Patsy Collins

Lee-on-the-Solent author Patsy Collins, known for her light hearted romance novels and woman’s magazine stories, now has murder in mind! Don’t worry though, she’s still working in fiction…
BECKYwas glad to see Annette on the bus that rainy morning. She wanted to moan about her husband – better that than brood until she got annoyed out of all proportion.
“Remember Dale bought whole tinned tomatoes, as they were a penny cheaper than chopped?” Becky said, trying not to drip on her friend.
“Didn’t you convince him it wasn’t worth the hassle?”
“Yeah. After I made him do the chopping.”
“So, what’s the problem?” Annette asked.
“He wants lasagna again, but won’t pay for fresh basil. Admittedly that does cost a bit, but it’s not the same without.”
“Pick yew leaves from the churchyard for his portion!”
“I thought they were poisonous?” Becky asked.
“Exactly. They’ll halve your food bills!”
Becky grinned. Annette always cheered her up by letting her moan about Dale’s annoying little traits and thinking up creative ways to get revenge. She’d suggested blocking out the sound of snoring with a thick pillow held over Dale’s nose until he was quiet. The over the top solutions made Becky giggle and helped her get things into perspective.
Becky tried to do the same for Annette. Her Ross seemed a pain.
“He cancelled a golf match because I said I didn’t want to go,” Annette said once. “I’d just fancied reading my book in peace, but couldn’t tell him without hurting his feelings.”
“Say you’ve taken up gardening, then read in the shed.”
“He’d just come out every five minutes to check I was OK, ask if I wanted a cup of tea, or if he should start making dinner.”
Annette often said he was kind and thoughtful, but Becky worried what those thoughts were. Once Annette mentioned a new coffee shop she’d heard served wonderful cakes and that she hoped to
visit as soon as Ross could take her.
“How about we go together on Saturday?” Becky said.
“Sorry, but we’re out for the day.”
Becky had made several similar suggestions since the two woman had met on the bus journey to work. Annette always replied Ross had made plans, or she’d have to check with Ross, making it
clear she couldn’t consider going anywhere without him. The only exception was work, and even then he walked her to the bus stop and met her again afterwards.
“He works from home,” Annette explained once. “He says walking with me gets him in the mood to work and meeting me later helps him switch off from it.”
That was plausible, but Becky thought he might also be checking up on her.
Belatedly Becky noticed Annette was completely dry, despite the rain and lack of umbrella. “Wasn’t it raining where you live?”
“Ross carried the brolly and needed it to go back home,” she’d said.
Had he made sure she didn’t have one with her, so it would be less likely she’d go anywhere in her lunch break?
“How is he anyway?” Becky asked.
“He’s fine. Yesterday he surprised me by taking me out to lunch, wasn’t that sweet of him?”
“Lovely,” Becky said, wondering what would happen if Annette had decided to go shopping or anything else without clearing it with him first. Or maybe she was just jealous as Dale never surprised her in a way which cost him money. Even her engagement ring had been a family heirloom. Not that she’d minded – it was gorgeous and she
was touched that his family wanted her to have it, especially as hers lived so far away.
Dale had always been careful with money. When they met he’d been saving to start his own car repair business and for the first few years of their marriage every penny went into paying back the loan he’d taken out. He’d not got into the habit of spending much since, but neither had he been mean until they got a smart meter. She hadn’t minded when he suggested they turn the heating down in the evenings. They usually just watched TV, which they could do just as well snuggled up together under a blanket. Actually she was sleeping better now the bedroom was cooler at nights.
Measuring the right amount of water to boil in the kettle, although a bit of a faff, was sensible too, but once he realised such simple actions saved money, he became obsessive. He wouldn’t turn on a
light unless he considered it absolutely necessary.
“Put Lego bricks at the top of the stairs to prove it’s a good idea to put the light on if either of you get up in the night,” Annette had suggested when Becky told her.
Dale hunted for bargains in the supermarket and watered down washing-up liquid and other cleaners to ‘make them go further’.
“Do you do the same thing with customers’ brake fluid?” Becky had demanded.
“Of course not! That would be dangerous and I’m responsible for the safety of my customers.”
His own safety would be at risk if she ever got totally fed up enough to out one of Annette’s schemes. Thank goodness she could let off steam joking about them.
“You look serious,” Annette said.
“I was just thinking about where to get yew leaves.”
“You don’t want to do it,” Annette said. “Too obvious. It’d be better if I did and you sorted out Ross.”
“Oh?”
“He gets on my nerves,” Annette confessed. “He’s kind and thoughtful, but I feel completely smothered.”
“I didn’t like to say, but I was getting that impression.”
“That’s a plan then? We’ll bump them off and afterwards we’ll meet for coffee whenever we like. I’ll be allowed out alone, and you’ll be able to ‘waste’ money on a little treat.”
Becky laughed uncomfortably. “We’ll have to plan it carefully, so we’ve both got good alibis of course.”
Annette seemed to have put some thought into it, and Becky recalled that all her revenge schemes showed she had murder in mind. Becky didn’t want to kill anyone, or have her husband killed. It wasn’t just that she was squeamish about murder – she really wanted Dale to stay alive. She loved him and knew they just needed to communicate better.
That night Becky told Dale exactly what she thought about his penny pinching.
“I’m sorry, love. I thought you’d got so used to saving money you wouldn’t notice what I was up to.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve been saving to take you to Australia to visit your sister and nieces.”
“Oh, Dale, really?”
“Yes, really. I even phoned your boss to make sure you’d be able to have the time off.”
“Good job I didn’t have you killed then!”
“What are you talking about?” Dale echoed her words of a few moments previously.
Becky told him about her conversations with Annette.
“You never really meant any of it, did you?”
“Of course not. And I don’t think she did either… but what if she did? She’s been suppressing her annoyance a long time. It’s possible she might do something drastic.”
“Maybe we should tell the police? Just in case.”
“Let’s go into the station. I’ll explain better in person.”
On the way they passed the new coffee shop. Becky, remembering Annette’s plan to visit when she had no husband to stop her going out, glanced in the window. No, it couldn’t be…
“Stop the car!”

​”What is it?”

“I just saw Annette. She was with a man and tipping something into his drink!”
Dale braked sharply. Becky leapt out and ran into the shop. “Don’t drink it, Ross!” she yelled.
Both Annette and Ross stared at her open mouthed, then burst out laughing. “I was just telling Ross I thought I’d worried you with my silly joke.”
Becky noticed the empty sugar sachet in Annette’s hand and laughed herself from relief.
Dale arrived and asked, “Everything OK?”
“Yes. Well, Annette isn’t trying to kill Ross. I’m not sure if she’s going to forgive me for accusing her of it though.”
“Of course I do. Sit down and join us both of you.”
“Might as well,” Dale said. “I’ve put a pound in the meter and don’t want to waste the money.” He winked at Becky to show he was teasing, then proved it by ordering them both hot chocolates with
whipped cream.
“What I can’t understand is why anyone would think Annette wanted me dead,” Ross said.
“It’s because you fuss over me too much. After the accident I did need a lot of help, and I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. But I don’t need constant care now and feel totally
smothered.” She spoke sharply and Ross looked rather shocked.
Becky, thinking it would be better if they discussed it alone after having time to think, moved the conversation along. “Sorry about your accident, Annette. Sounds as though it was awful.”
“It was,” Ross confirmed. “The worst thing is that although we and the police know who did it, he wasn’t taken to court because of some technicality. He’s still drinking and driving.”
“He’s bound to crash again,” said Dale. “I sort out so many cars damaged that way.”
“He could kill someone next time,” said Ross.
The men exchanged glances.
“Or die himself in a horrible accident?” Dale suggested.
Murder In Mind is the first of 24 in Patsy’s crime themed short story collection Criminal Intent, out now. For the next few days the ebook will be available  for Globe readers at just 77p – it’s a steal! There’s a paperback, too, which can be bought online for £6.99, or ordered through bookshops, libraries and Amazon, ISBN 978-1-914339-10-3
On November 28 ‘Acting Like A Killer; An Amelia Watson romantic mystery’ will be released. The story is set in Lee-on-the-Solent and Falmouth. The ebook of this novel can be pre-
ordered here: patsycollins53@yahoo.com and patsycollins.uk