Visiting the McIntoshs

Visiting the McIntoshs

He was with her. She knew it. Riona knew the cheating bastard was doing that blonde slut this very second. Like he did for the last couple of weeks.

Working late. That Glasgow project again, you know. Don’t stay up for me.

Standing at the kitchen island, one hand clenched around the stem of her wine glass, she stared into empty space, her jaw set, muscles working. Tightening. Straining. The clock at the far wall of the vast room headed for midnight, finding itself in agreement with the display of the double wall oven.

Riona poured the last rest of Cabernet into her glass. The full-bodied red wine had washed away her last concerns. Half an hour ago she had put into practice what had been planned, plotted and deliberated upon in earnest during the last days. This would have been the last night of Alistair cheating on her, mocking her, dishonouring her by screwing that cheap slag.

Her head snapped around at the sound of a car on the drive way.

~

Alistair didn’t want to get rid of his wife for one of his conquests. He wanted to get rid of his wife – full stop. This latest affair just had made it absolutely clear once more. Even way before he had started cheating on Riona, her contempt for him had reached a crushing level. The glances, the scoffs, the sharp comments. As if he could do nothing right. As if he were a complete loser. It was bad in the morning before they left the house. It was worse in the evening. At night, it was devastating. The last time they had slept with each other had been months ago, but still he remembered the total lack of tenderness. When he had tried to kiss her, she had turned her face away. When he had caressed her body, she had kept rigid and irresponsive. Afterwards Riona just had rolled over. “Pathetic” had been the word she had murmured under her breath, yet clearly enough to make sure he had heard it. How could she even blame him for nailing his secretary after that? Holding against him the need to prove that he was still a man! If she knew he was unfaithful, she had to be aware of the reason, too. And Alistair had no illusions about her level of suspicion, nor had he any delusions about what would come next: divorce. And with divorce would come lawyers. And everybody knew what came with lawyers – courtesy of that prenuptial agreement she had let him sign. He did not even mind losing a good amount of money so much. But he would rather make a bonfire of it than letting that bitch have got one pound.

Driving with one hand and in the wrong gear, he rummaged around behind the passenger’s seat until he found the bottle. Still half-full of whisky. Half-full of oblivion if this were about to be just another night of disdain. Half-full of courage tonight. He took a healthy draught and immediately welcomed the familiar burning and enveloping heat of the single malt. Why hadn’t anybody invented whisky chewing gum yet? He was sick and tired of the menthol-flavoured stuff which served him as medically sanctioned stress relief.

Alistair followed the road through the city’s dark outskirts to the detached house they both had chosen to be their home only a few years ago. Modern. Contemporary. Drive way made of white pebbles. They were crunching underneath the tyres as he drove towards the double garage. Riona had left its gate open again, and her 1 Series was subtly positioned to make parking next to it an ambitious aim. He rejected the challenge and stopped in front of the garage. Alistair wasn’t fond of leaving his car outside, but this would be the last time to be vexed with it. With his stuff in one arm, he got out and threw some unsuspicious glances around. No one on the road, and the next house was at least fifty metres away, surrounded by a dense hedge. He took the bag from the small luggage compartment under the front bonnet, locked his car and headed towards the building’s side entrance in the garage, closing the gate behind him.

Just a man coming home to his perfect house with its perfect white drive way. Back to his perfect loving wife.

~

“Gentleman, I am most delighted to announce that the main phase of our venture is right about to be initiated.”

“Execution,” the man next to him stated assiduously.

“Absolutely, Mr Track. The scheme’s execution itself!”

Mr Tick loved using vocabulary such as “phase”, “operation” and “venture”. Performing a precisely timed gesture towards the other side of the street, he readied himself to continue. And even though the information to be presented wasn’t exactly new, he could be sure to have the undivided attention of both the driver and the stocky man in the back of the pickup truck’s crew cab.

“The McIntoshs. Alistair and Riona. Double income, no kids, no pets.”

“Ideal clients,” the driver threw in.

“Indeed. A young sexy couple. Modern, urban, well-educated, high-performing, blessed with high purchasing power. The wet dream of every marketing strategist. Mr Trick?”

The man on the rear seat delivered his lines as if he were reading a shopping list:

“He works for Claymore Enterprises, she’s an internal consultant at Dearborn & Merryweather, their house’s burglar alarm came from Ironclad.”

Next it was the driver’s to outline the means of transportation and evasion. Always the jolly one of their little posse, Mr Track excursus about how their current vehicle had been obtained digressed into the realm of anecdotes. Not that anything had been funny or worthy of mention about it. Trick and Track had secured an adequate model on a car park east of Falkirk and had provided it with alternative registration plates. For some reasons they had decided on a large Nissan pickup truck, although the times when the three of them had hoisted hi-fi systems out of homes to convert them at the next pawn shop where since long gone. Now their field of expertise involved the precise – he dare said surgical – extraction and transfer of possession.

Mr Tick considered himself a method criminal. During an operation he would only use and answer to their respective aliases. He became the operation! Therefore he considered it essential that – as he liked to put it – everybody was sure to have gained sufficient insight. Organisation, execution, transportation – the three pillars of any well though-out plan.

“Well, gentlemen, I reckon the details of our approach to be announced to their full extend. So, any questions left?”

His two companions shook their heads.

“Everybody gained sufficient insight?”

His two companions nodded their heads.

“Grand. Mr Trick, our disguise, please.”

The stocky man produced three black balaclavas from the non-descript duffle bag, of which he handed two to the leader and the driver. As soon as the men had put them on, they could only be told apart by their frames, with Tick the tallest and Track the leanest.

“Never underestimate the effect of uniform appearance upon clients,” the leader informed his companions.

Track inspected himself in the rear-view mirror.

“Sure the two of you look identical. But my mask has got these odd stitches all over it.”

“You are wearing it inside out,” Trick stated dryly.

With Mr Track having corrected his fashion faux pas, Mr Tick declared them ready.

“Mind you, gentlemen: Proceed with utmost authority.” He granted himself a dramatic pause.

“Go.”

The three men simultaneously opened their respective doors, slipped out into the engulfing darkness and closed them silently ere the cool night’s air could so much as enter the truck’s cabin.

~

She heard Alistair rumble in the hallway, and of course his first way led him to the house bar in the living room. That sorry excuse for a man had long since given up hiding his addiction from her – too bad for him. Eventually the love of her life appeared in the kitchen entrance with the trophies recently achieved at the bar. A bottle of his favourite whisky brand in one hand, a generously filled glass in the other. He hadn’t even bothered taking off his suit jacket, just loosened his tie.

~

Alistair entered the cooking area, which was only lit by the stylish little spot lights around the stainless steel extractor hood – and immediately regretted it. He had expected Riona to be still awake, but had rather hoped being ignored. Bad luck so far, with her waiting amidst their vanguard Bulthaup kitchen. Following the “sophisticatedly showing off whilst cooking with friends”–trend, his better half had insisted on this monstrosity of aluminium, glass and chrome steel. Now she was standing at the island in her slivery silk pyjamas, cheeks flushed, yet eyes piercing as she welcomed him with her speech already slightly slurred.

“Looking weary, honey.”

How she managed to make every term of endearment sound utterly venomous was beyond him.

“Killer day at the office. You, on the other hand, seem to enjoy yourself.”

Riona gave him a scornful look, but he only put the bottle on the kitchen table and sat down. Alistair had left the bag in the hallway, yet had taken out the items he would be needing first. He felt them comfortingly heavy within his jacket’s pocket, springy in his waistband.

“You left the garage door open. Again.”

“That so?”

“Can’t you imagine I’m too tired to put up with this every time I come home?”

She tossed her head around in her favourite mannerism, distinctive chin held high, challenging gaze upon him.

“Yes, I can imagine you are spent.”

He took a sip from his whisky glass, and for a moment a strange, cold smile appeared on her face. Whatever it supposed to mean, it was immediately replaced by her usual frown. Alistair took another, bolder draught. In his mind he had tried every torture method known to mankind out on his wife. Right now he was falling back on one of his all-time favourites; a ménage à trois between a dental drill, her kneecap and a soundproof cellar room.

“Perhaps if I were to receive more recognition in my private life, I would not have got to seek it at work.”

Alistair nearly fell from his chair as the half-full wine glass shattered on the wall right next to his head, sending a crimson shower across the white plaster as well as over him. He struggled to a stand.

“Are you mental?!”

“Have you found your recognition between her legs tonight?!”

“You better plan on cleaning that up, bitch! You better!”

Riona had already switched back from cold fury to devastating odium.

“And the night before? What a well-recognised man you’ve got to be…”

~

The truck’s doors opened a mere five minutes later to allow the three men entry.

“Upon closer observation I could not help but notice that the surname of this house’s residents is spelled M-a-c-intosh – which lends support to the assumption that we became slightly diverted in terms of navigation.”

“Wrong house, then?” the driver asked.

“Yes, Mr Track, it is the wrong house. Thank you for pointing that out,” Tick replied with the slightest trace of indignation in his voice. “However, neither the operation itself nor its time schedule is imperilled by our small spatial deviation. Mr Track, start your engine!”

~

What sense! That bastard! Her aim might already be compromised by having enjoyed the part of the wine not dripping from the wall, but if he pushed her further, she would have another try, this time with the bottle!

He closed in, veins visible on his forehead.

“I don’t have to answer to you in my house. And I don’t put up with having stuff tossed at me!”

Your house?!” snapped Riona, circling the island so she could spit her scorn right into his face. “That’s one interesting formulation.” She gave it an odd intonation as she went up with her voice at the end of the sentence. One of her most favourite mannerisms. Made it sound almost like a question. Yet it wasn’t one. It was a challenge. “Am I mistaken that both of us are registered as owners? And let’s not forget,” she turned the knife, “that I bring a wee bit more bacon home.”

“You utter bitch,” he growled.

Riona slapped him in the face. He grunted and grabbed her arm whilst his other hand fished for something in the pocket of his jacket. Before she even had the chance to free herself from his grip, Riona felt a jolt discharging in her thigh. A split second later the shock raced up her leg and into her whole body. The leg gave way, and she slumped to the tiled floor

~

Alistair was quite surprised at the effect. His wife’s body had turned rigid, only to collapse a moment later. Just two small burn marks were visible on the expensive silk where he had pressed the stun gun against her left thigh. He put the shock device on the counter and produced the heavy-duty zip ties from his waistband.

“80,000 volts, in case you are wondering.”

Riona started to regain control again and was about to struggled to her feet, so he tackled her back to the ground.

“You are fucking dead, you wanker!”

“Language, woman!”

They rolled about on the floor, and Alistair reckoned he should have shocked her longer. Two times she managed to knee him, with the first attack catching him in the stomach. Luckily for him, her leg was still weak from the jolt. Riona’s good leg, though, had no lack of strength as it was driven into his reproduction organs. He emitted a choked moan as nauseating pain waved over him, and she tried to reach the drawer with the kitchen knives. Fighting the urge to be sick, Alistair threw all his weight on her, bringing her back to the floor, face down.

“Get off me!”

He put his knee in the small of her back and twisted her arm.

“Ouw! Let go!”

“Stop struggling, bitch!”

“Fuck you!”

Alistair twisted harder, and she groaned through gritted teeth. Oh, how good that felt! He twisted a little further, just for good measures.

“You’re breaking my arm!”

Of course she exaggerated, like she always did when it came to criticising his actions. He wasn’t breaking her arm. He was dislocating it. Besides, she was quite flexible from doing yoga and stuff. The first loop of zip ties went over her trapped wrist, yet it took some more pain compliance to make her surrender her other hand. She had always been a toughie, Alistair had to give her that. He hauled the cursing woman up and threw her onto the nearest chair. Soon more zip ties restrained her to it, arms forced strenuously around the back rest, bare ankles tethered to its rear legs.

Alistair fetched his bag from the hallway, not without helping himself to another gulp of whisky. Just to take the edge off the pain still pulsating through his groin. He put the bag on the kitchen counter and got rid of his jacket, all the time closely observed by Riona. She had quit swearing at him when he had reached for his glass. Now he brought it from the table as well, together with the rapidly draining bottle.

“Want one, too? You’ll be needing it.”

She only gave him an icy glance. Alistair shrugged his shoulders and began to empty his bag. Next to the stun gun on the island he laid out a box cutter, a pair of combination pliers and some steel shashlik skewers. From the corners of his eyes he kept watching his wife. The icy glance was still there, yet for some reason she seemed to become a wee bit uneasy on her chair. He made a show of inspecting every single item. For dramatic effect Alistair even switched on the gas cooktop as well, the little blue flame coming to life with a gentle pop. He remembered how she used to taunt him about not knowing how to get anything working in the kitchen. No taunting now, actually no comment at all. How scarce.

“Ah, c’mon, Ro, aren’t you the tiniest bit curious?”

Alistair realised that he had called her by her nickname for the first time in months. To be honest, he had had his doubts if and how he could dispatch her. But now a freeing light-heartedness was enclosing him. The single malt was clearly giving him a boost.

“I see, you don’t want to play along, but I give you the tour anyway: Burglars break into our home and overpower you. You, of course, decide to be uncooperative, and things turn ugly. They torture you for the PIN codes and such. And since we all know how stubborn you can be, they end up giving you the Third Degree – literally.”

“You haven’t got the balls for that!” spat Riona.

“Speaking of which: For kneeing me in the tenders you get an extra half an hour of playtime.”

Her expression had changed during his report, alas more towards scunner than fear. Not that this could spoil his big moment.

“Finally, the bastards kill you – leaving a mourning husband behind.”

“That plan is moronic, even for an imbecile like you,” she stated. “Is that one of your sick toss-off phantasies?”

“Find comfort in the fact that I’m going to share some of your pains, just to make it look real. You will be outraged to hear that these criminals also shock me with the stun gun, which cause me to fall and suffer a concussion. Eventually I regain consciousness, only to find your dead and destroyed body.”

~

He was bluffing, so much was for sure. All that hard talk was coming from a bloke who could not bear the sight of a single drop of blood. Last year, when she had got a nasty laceration from her trekking gear avalanching down its rack in the garage, he had driven her to the hospital. By the time they had arrived, Alistair had looked paler than she had herself. And even if it weren’t a bluff, he would be finished soon anyway, given the amount of whisky he had consumed – and what she had mixed into it. Right on cue, Alistair paused in his move and steadied himself on the counter edge.

“What’s up, honey? Feeling a bit lightheaded?” she snarled, voice thick with cold mockery. “Maybe something you drank?”

He scoffed and raised his glass.

“Slàinte mhath!”

“Caw canny with that stuff,” she advised, knowing very well it would only encourage him to drink more.

“Don’t you worry; the bottle will do for tonight. But once you are all sliced and diced, I’ll get myself properly shitfaced.”

He set the empty glass down and pulled the final item from his bag. A big red rubber ball with a leather strap running through it. Although never seen a ball gag before in real life (she didn’t do kinky), Riona had a basic concept of its purpose. That Alistair had tied her up was annoying enough, but there was no way she would take that perv-toy into her mouth!

~

Alistair could not tell how many times he had suffered verbal vivisection by his wife. Tonight, however, her sharp tongue would receive a taming. The classic BDSM gag was surely the highlight of his little “snuff kit”. Sporting an almost iconic design, the likes of it were present even in today’s pop culture. It elicited a stronger reaction from Riona than all his makeshift torture instruments together. Some time ago, still in their better days, he had carefully brought up the topic of non-vanilla lovemaking, but the sole notion had got him two weeks of sex denial.

“Say ‘Aah’…”

It was of little surprise that Riona pressed her lips together and turned her head one way or the other every time the silencing device approached her face. Catching her chin with the hand that was also holding the ball gag, he pinched her nose shut with the fingers of the other one. She held her breath whilst stabbing him with her eyes, then made hissing sounds when she sucked in air through between her tightly clenched teeth.

“You are only making this harder on yourself…”

Alistair, not outwitted by his wife’s resistance, let go of her nose, only to press his index finger against a certain spot on her neck, a little below the larynx. Riona tried to wiggle away, but her attempt came too late. An overwhelming impulse to retch hit her, and a moment later she was coughing heavily. And another moment later her coughs were severely muffled by the hated rubber ball.

“Bon appétit!”

He closed the heavy buckle in the nape of her neck and pulled her long hair free. Riona still managed to get some insulting noises out, but the main body of her tirades was blocked by the fetish gag. With two inches in diameter it was a rather large exemplar, especially for an untrained mouth. And it was made of real, if high-grade rubber, not the softer silicone. There had been even bigger ones in that shop in Edinburgh, though, up to a monster of two and three quarter inches. Alistair had been particularly intrigued by that one, but it just wouldn’t be practicable. So he had gone with the two-incher. He had to admit that she looked weirdly sexy with it, and for a short moment Alistair wished they had tried all this under more consensual circumstances.

~

The strong taste of rubber immediately filled her mouth. Maybe it was just her utter disgust that amplified the sensation. All the same, she had the impression of chewing on a brand new car tyre. Yet Riona could not help but digging her teeth into it in futile defiance. She had been right: Being gagged was worse than being tied up. She could not even begin to comprehend how anybody could see anything erotic in it! It was utterly demeaning, distorting and intimidating. The foul item rendered her literally speechless and pried her jaws open so her muscles began to throb almost immediately. Also – speaking of demeaning – her saliva was already gathering around her trapped tongue.

She would not make it that easy for him to humiliate her any further!

Riona wiggled her head left and right, her dark mane flying about. She twisted and jerked on her chair, not caring about the zip ties cutting and chaffing. She pressed with her tongue, fought the gag with all her strength, and under efforts she finally forced the red intruder past her teeth, past her lips. It bounced back onto her chin, but another round of head-shaking sent it down her neck, where it dangled like a pervy necklace.

Alistair, at first amused by the show she was putting on, wasn’t pleased at all now. He seized the gag again and brought it back up.

“Spit that thing out one more time, and I will—“

“What will you, limp-dick, eh?! What will you do to mmghhh—“

Alistair wedged the ball back into her mouth and, stepping behind her once more, buckled the strap in its last hole, not caring at all about how deeply the leather cut into the corners of Riona’s lips. He stood before her again.

“You were saying, dear?”

“Mmph.”

~

Riona’s eyes grew large – Good! – but Alistair noticed that her gaze went over his shoulder. He leant back with a weary sigh.

“Really, sweetheart? The old trick? ‘Watch out, Alistair, behind you!’

“Watch out, Alistair, behind you…”

He spun around, the unknown voice echoing in his mind. Yet every further action was cancel by a fist to his liver.

~

Their leader spoke with a faint Irish accent.

“Mr and Mrs McIntosh, we are here to take your worldly possessions. I trust you are adequately insured, so please show no sign of resistance. Mr Trick, who is the gentleman to my right, owns a reputation for meeting such behaviour quite roughly, as Mr McIntosh’s still vivid desire to double over underlines.”

Alistair groaned as if confirming the statement. He was by now secured to a chair vis-à-vis to Riona – with zip ties, of all (they brought their own, of course – nobody seemed to bother themselves with a good rope and the art of knotting anymore). The three strangers standing in their kitchen wore black overalls and balaclavas. One of them, the heavy-set one who had punched Alistair, let a large duffle bag thump to the floor. As very recently proven by her hubby, suspicious bags brought into a kitchen during the night hours were never a good sign.

Their leader seemed to have followed Riona’s gaze.

“Be not afraid, though. Once you and your spouse have digested the initial scare, the both of you will be grand, albeit in need of a better security system.”

“How did you get in here?” her husband asked, voice still thick with pain.

“Door.”

It was the stocky man who had answered, Mr Trick. Then the tall one continued:

“However, I appreciate that Mrs McIntosh can already be found in a distinctive level of restraint, though the reasons as to why are not mine to investigate.”

The leader beckoned his accomplices to swarm out.

“Oh, and I would appreciate you to have got your PIN codes at hand.”

“Of course,” sighed Alistair.

Riona, on account of still being gagged, only rolled her eyes.

For claiming to take their worldly possessions, they were quite picky. Stocky and the third one didn’t give their mobile phones so much as a glance, same with their high end laptops. Some of her jewellery found a new home in Stocky’s duffle bag, but only the very highlights, such as the sapphire ear rings and a massive silver choker. They ignored Alistair’s wrist watch as well, and Riona wasn’t sure whether to be glad or disappointed. It had been her present for his first birthday they had celebrated as husband and wife. The watch wasn’t so much what she had thought he would like, but what she had liked to see on him – a sensible-sized TAG Heuer chronograph, chronometre-certified. It sported an engravement on its back around the glass inlay:

To Alistair – May It Never Stop Counting Our Hours Together

In Love

Ro

She wondered why he was still wearing it. Perhaps that dork just had forgotten about the dedication. The appearance of their guests had rendered her situation even more complicated. But overcoming the initial shock – the second one this night – Riona also saw the possibilities. Grunting into the mouth-filling ball, she sought eye contact with the leader.

“How may I help you, Mrs McIntosh?”

“Taghe igh ough, ‘eave.”

He hunched down in front of her.

“And you will not start any cascades of revilements?”

Riona shook her head.

“Well then…”

He rose and reached around her to loosen the buckle. As soon as the gag left her mouth, she yelled at Alistair:

“You prick, how dare you—”

“And back in it goes…” announced Mr Tick, bringing the saliva-shining rubber to her lips again.

“No, no, please!” Riona pled, switching instantaneously to damsel-in-distress mode. “You have to listen to me! He is out of his mind! He tried to kill me! I don’t care what you take, but you can’t leave me at his mercy!”

Mr Tick paused in his motion, and she decided to drive the point home.

“Surely don’t want a homicide connected to your coup in any form.”

“We prefer the term ‘operation’,” Trick informed her whilst closing his duffle bag.

“Besides,” the leader took over, “he is currently not in the position to harm you.”

“You just can’t help it, huh?” Alistair snarled at her.

“Say what?”

“You have to manipulate everyone around you, even some bloody criminals breaking into our home!”

“Easy, handsome,” Track warned, apparently more eager to aggrandise himself than actually taking offence at Alistair’s description of their profession.

“Why, eh? I’ve listened to that frigid bitch long enough!” Alistair stated.

“Oh, now I’m frigid! You are so drunk every night, you cannot get a hard-on anymore!”

“Take a wild guess why I drink!”

“Because you are a pathetic little—”

“I hate to interrupt, but my associates and I did not travel all the way from Dublin…” from Mr Tick’s mouth it sounded like “Dobbelen”, “… to arbitrate your marital conflicts. So we are going back to civilised manners, or it will be Big Red for you again.” He pointed to the ball gag dangling around her neck once more, just loosely re-buckled so it won’t get lost.

Opposite her Alistair scoffed.

“For ten minutes these blokes are here, and already they are as tired of listening to your nagging as I am.”

Riona, not willing to give him the satisfaction of seeing her gagged again, swallowed a sharp riposte. After all, Alistair would soon pack up complaining about her nagging at all.

~

The signs in the kitchen hadn’t gone unnoticed by Mr Tick. Over the shattered remains of the wine glass his gaze wandered to the island counter with its scenery of tool and flickering gas flames. Judging from the collection some considerable bloodletting had been imminent – that, or these two were seriously far out with their role-playing. He found himself hoping for the latter, lest the main purpose of their home invasion would be affected.

“Far be it from me to come between spouses living through a difficult time,” he announced whilst switching the gas off, “yet I have to ask for your cooperation once again to make this night count.”

After the completed collecting of money, valuables, credit cards and PIN codes by Mr Trick and Mr Track, a certain level of reluctance could be seen on Mr McIntosh’s face. His better half, however, showed more spirit…

~

“Far be it from me to come between spouses living through a difficult time, yet I have to ask for your cooperation once again to make this night count.”

The leader’s request was a downright cue for Riona.

“Sure. Why not start with Mr McIntosh’s Porsche?”

She intentionally mispronounced it as “porsh”, knowing fully well how that always annoyed him. Nobody was to speak badly about the one thing dearest to his heart. During their four years of marriage – not to mention the time before – he had not let her drive that car a single time.

“Why not start with it, Mr Trick?” the leader requested.

Stocky shrugged his shoulders.

“An older model. Type 993. A grey 4S, if I saw correctly.”

Arctic Silver,” Alistair corrected automatically.

“What would be so special about it?”

Trick shrugged his shoulders again: “Well…”

“Nothing!” hurried Alistair. “She doesn’t know—”

“It’s the last one ever built and delivered.”

“Shut up!” he hissed.

She leant forwards to him, almost sculpturing the words with evil satisfaction.

“It’s worth twice as much as new.”

“Shut the fuck up!”

“Make me.”

“You bitch,” he gnarled. “You damn bitch.”

She sneered and stuck her tongue out at him.

“The last of the all-air-cooled…” pondered Tick. “Well, in that case: There are certain discrete collectors who may take a fancy on such a gem.”

“And easier to transport than a telly,” Mr Track threw in.

“Yes, self-propelled indeed…” the leader mused. “Although I reckon Mrs McIntosh to be exaggerating about the actual worth, I will consider this and let you know. However, if you please direct me to the keys?”

“In his underpants.”

He appeared to frown underneath his balaclava, but Mr Trick just shrugged his shoulders again and began to grope Alistair’s crotch.

~

“Knock it off!” Alistair yelled in a voice higher than intended. That berk really took Riona’s bosh seriously!

“Would you please just check his pockets?” their leader assigned.

Apparently deprived of her fun by Tick’s intervention, his wife told them to look on the ōdana near the stairs, where he always put his keys onto.

Track gawped at her.

“The what?”

“A shelf-like piece of furniture used in Japanese tea ceremonies,” the leader clarified, as if ōdana could be found at every corner in Dublin. “Mr Trick, would you be so kind?”

When the stocky bloke returned with the bunch of keys, Riona assumed herself to be in a bargaining position.

“Great, now that I’ve cooperated so nicely and your mates learnt a new word, how about cutting my ties? Just as a gesture?”

“I’m afraid this would send the wrong signal, not to mention that it is still a wee bit early for granting you full sway again.”

“Seems your bribery didn’t work out, you back-stabbing tart!” Alistair chuckled bitterly. “You stay on your chair just I have to stay on mine.”

“A small inconvenience for having a front row seat at what is about to happen.”

Again one of those innuendoes! The thing he hated the most about her – by virtue of significance maybe even the one thing he hated about her – was that damn proneness to ambiguities, side blows and downright malicious comments. Only meant to make his life miserable. If he could keep her gagged permanently, she would be the perfect companion.

“And what would that be, huh? What will be happening capable of amusing you so much despite our situation?”

“You want to know it? Fine. Since you are no longer in any position to harm me, courtesy of our guests, why should I not take some additional pleasure in listening to your pathetic whining which is inevitably to follow: I have poisoned you.”

~

That felt good!

Riona couldn’t believe how freeing it had been to say these four words. With satisfaction she followed the struggle of doubt and disbelieve on Alistair’s face.

“Bollocks!” he decided.

She only shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, as far as it was possible in her strained position.

“How?”

“Interesting. Five seconds earlier it was bollocks, now we have arrived at the ‘how’.”

Behind Mr Tick his two accomplices became a bit fidgety. The leader himself felt it necessary to intervene:

“Is there any chance your dear wife’s comment has a solely figurative meaning?”

“She’s making that up as she goes along! Where could she even put—”

“In your moronic anti-stress chewing gums,” she lied. No need to give anybody funny ideas. Actually, she had indeed considered soaking the chewing gums. But beside the difficulty of letting the toxic liquid dry in before re-wrapping, there had been the taste. Her poison of choice had been the extract of Alsangania atrosanguinea, in these parts better known as Bloodroot or Red Root. The herb sported a unique combination of acerbic and sweet that wouldn’t go very well with peppermint. She had reckoned the sensation to be like the one from drinking orange juice after having brushed one’s teeth. But luckily there was always a bottle of Auchentoshan Classic around. Riona had taken a sip to test it – without the Bloodroot, of course. The scotch’s complex flavour had turned out to be perfect! There had been the sharpness of the alcohol itself together with some fruity element on her tongue that had reminded her of apples.

“Bollocks,” Alistair stated again, as if repeating it would change the facts. He did not look too well already. Maybe it was the booze, or the stress. But Riona had her third theory ready. She didn’t know exactly when the main effects would occur, maybe the alcohol was interfering with the process. Yet she had a rather clear idea as to what would happen once the poison had went to work on his organism. The result would be a quick and painless death – after about ten minutes of excruciating cramping, that was. Two hours later, though, there would be no trace of the agent within the body, if one didn’t know what to look for.

“Your call. Just tell me how it worked out for you.”

She let her response hover halfway between question and statement, a habit of which she knew putting Alistair particularly on edge.

~

He didn’t want to believe Riona’s claim, of course, but the more Alistair thought about it, the more likely it appeared. “Hell hath no fury…” and so on. In his mind he had already started to count the number of anti-stress gums he had chewed today.

“Why, this is quite an aggravating development…” Tick sighed from between them.

“What is it to you? Secure yourself some alibis for that cretin’s time of death. My offer still stands: Take whatever you want and cut me loose once you’re done.”

“And what a generous offer it is. Thing is, though, a certain item is still remaining on our wish list.”

His wife frowned at Mr Tick.

“You’ve got our money, our stuff, you’ve got his bloody car. What could there be else?”

“Maybe you should increase your offer by a free blow job for each one,” Alistair suggested. As he had hoped, Riona blushed noticeably.

Fellatio was a topic his better half wholeheartedly avoided – because or in spite of the fact that she hadn’t always showed the same consequence in avoiding the act itself. Just to clarify it to their nocturnal visitors, he added with a slight exaggeration:

“Took it all like a good lass without gagging once.”

“Wanna discuss why I didn’t have to gag, shorty?!”

“I understand that by escalating to intimate details, this conversation is reaching a critical point, so I have to take measures for de-escalation,” Mr Tick stated. “Which means imposing silence upon at least one of you. That would be you, Mrs McIntosh. Nothing personal nor misogynistic – you just came already fitted with a suitable device.”

With amazing skill he forced the gag back into Riona’s mouth, despite her heavy resistance. She winced as he tightened the strap and bit the rubber sphere in defiance. Alistair didn’t try to hide his schadenfreude one bit, earning a scornful gaze – which was the worst thing she was capable of doing to him right now. Didn’t look like her offer would be accepted any time soon. Poor lass…

Mr Tick, in the meantime, was determined to not let himself be interrupted again during his big moment:

“Tomorrow morning or…,” he checked his showy pilot’s watch with a flamboyant swing of his arm “… to be precise, today morning Mr McIntosh will enter a certain branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh. The branch farthest away from his office as well as from his wife’s office. That one where he has rented a safe deposit box.”

Riona jerked her head around.

“Wha’ ‘ox?”

“Excuse me?”

She managed to work the delightfully effective ball past her lips.

“Wha—”

The gag snapped back into her mouth, making her growl in frustration.

“Arrgh! Wha’ sa’e de’osi’ ‘ox?!”

“The safe deposit box your husband has failed to inform you about. Which happens to be the same box he stores certain sensible material related to the clientele of Claymore in. Unbeknownst to his employer, as a matter of course.”

Alistair reckoned that now it would be on him to blush, but his face could not decide whether to turn red or pale. These clowns knew about the box and its content!

“As I mentioned, Mr McIntosh will enter the bank in his function of the owner of said box, extract its content and return to our car for passing it over.”

“Why exactly would I do that?”

“Because your beloved wife is held hostage and will pay dearly if you show any shortage on cooperation.”

Alistair threw his head back and cackled.

“I do whatever you want, but please don’t hurt her! No, seriously: It may come as a surprise to you, but my wife and I are momentary not on the best terms.”

“This scheme indeed appears somewhat flawed in the light of tonight’s event, I have to admit that much.”

~

He had to think outside the box, Mr Tick told himself. He had to put his undeniably xyresic intellect to work. The leverage that came from holding Mr McIntosh’s wife hostage was essential to the operation. He couldn’t send anyone into the bank with Mr McIntosh, not into a place sporting an overkill of CCTV. So, if not capable of coercing him by threatening to kill his wife, he had to reward him.

“We kill your wife for you.”

“Huh, and have all the fun?”

“Very well then, you can kill her, and we take care of the body.”

“Well, I don’t know…”

“We dispose the body, and you can have your car keys back.” He let the keys fall into his host’s lap. The young man was hesitating, though. He kept scrutinising his wife who gazed back at him whilst chewing on the ball-gag.

“What is it that bothers you, Mr McIntosh?”

He faltered at first, but then coughed it up:

“There might be something true about that poisoning, I’m afraid…”

Why couldn’t for once – for once! – a plan work out as it was supposed to be?! He turned to the bound and gagged Riona, studying her authoritarian features for any hints of bluffing.

“Seriously now, Mrs McIntosh, have you been a bad girl?”

~

It had already dawned on Riona during Tick’s little speech that it might have been a mistake to inform her husband of the facts. These three paddies had further plans with Alistair and her, plans her excursion into herbal lore was thwarting.

“Seriously now, Mrs McIntosh, have you been a bad girl?”

He stepped over to remove the accursed S&M ball, yet paused with his hands already at the nape of her neck.

“Once more: no cursing nor yelling. Fool me twice, further disciplinary measures will be ahead.”

Then Mr Tick opened – much to her relief – the buckle. She worked her jaws to get some feeling back in. Damn, that gag was really serious!

“I assume you want to tell me something…”

“Anything special in mind?”

“How about the antidote?”

“Yes, where’s that fucking antidote?!” came from behind Tick’s back.

“Mr McIntosh, please. I reckon your gorgeous wife will be far more responsive if she is not yelled at,” the leader expounded, then addressed Riona again: “May I trouble you for some milk?”

“Sure”, she answered nonchalantly, predicting what he was up to. As far as she knew it would only speed things up.

“Milk against poisoning?  Isn’t that just some sort of an urban legend?”

“Absolutely not, Mr McIntosh. An uncle of mine – for obvious reasons I cannot name names – accidently swallowed a fatal combination of pharmaceuticals once and drank milk to hamper the agents from taking effect.”

“And he survived?”

“No. He died of food poisoning, because the milk was way beyond its expiry date. But my point stands.”

A wedge of light fell across the tiles as Tick opened the refrigerator and took one of the milk bottles out.

“Ah, the good glass ones…!”

He removed the cap, but made no attempt to free at least one of his host’s hands. Instead, he brought the bottle towards Alistair’s mouth.

“The whole bottle?”

“It is in your own interest.”

With a trifle of morbid fascination Riona watched her husband slowly emptying the bottle. Some drops ran down his chin, fell on his shirt, tie and waistcoat. If she wasn’t mistaken, the milk fat would carry the poison more quickly into his system. But who was she to contradict Mr Tick’s late uncle?

The leader put the empty bottle into the sink.

“That should buy us some time. Yet I have to express my determination to receive this elusive antidote of yours at short notice, Mrs McIntosh.”

Riona tilted her head.

“What makes you all think there’s an antidote? There simply isn’t.” She looked past the leader to Alistair: “You are dead meat. Just take it like a man.”

“You are lying!” he shouted. If he didn’t believe her one word, why did he keep asking?

“I find myself in agreement with Mr McIntosh. You strike me as too calculating a woman to tamper with lethal substances and having no worst case plan…”

Well, there was no denying.

“…so any subtle hint about said antidote is very much welcomed.”

“Sorry, no can do. Would spoil the fun.”

Alistair now seemed to somewhat losing it, much to her satisfaction. His resulting demand, however, did not find her approval at all.

“What are you still beating about the bush?! Just shove that damn electro shocker up her minge!”

“Nay. Torturing a woman brings bad luck,” Mr Trick knew.

“Not as much as marrying one. Cut me loose, I’ll make it myself!”

“I am appreciating your enthusiasm to aid in this gridlocked situation, albeit the outlines of your suggestion counteract our modus operandi.”

Her husband groaned, yet Riona was far from being relieved. She very well saw that she was running out of options. Whatever amount of money – or equivalent of said – waited within that bloody safe deposit box, it was the true reason for their visit and enough to render their current loot small change. As Alistair had put it in his idiotic speech after tying her up: Sooner than later things might turn ugly. So she decided to play it tough and take what she could get.

“I could tell you… under one condition.”

“And what would that be?”

“Rape him.”

Alistair’s head jerked up in disbelieve. And it was the first time Mr Tick’s eyes shown genuine incomprehension.

“I beg your pardon, Mrs McIntosh. Did you just formulate the sodomisation of your husband to be a condition of your cooperation?”

“I’m not asking you to sodomise him. I want you to rape him up the arse like a prison bitch.”

Alistair, to no surprise, reared at that – no pun intended.

“You are sick! What the fuck is wrong with you?! And you’re still wondering why I tried to snuff you?!”

“You guys have got serious issues,” Mr Track stated.

“I’m still marvelling how you managed not to electrocute yourself, killer!” Riona hissed at Alistair, ignoring Track’s interjection.

Mr Tick, in an attempt to lead the conversation back to a professional level, raised his voice underneath the balaclava.

“Mrs McIntosh’s suggestion indeed needs a fair amount of consideration. So I trust you will excuse us for some moments…”

He beckoned Mr Trick and Mr Track to follow him into the living room.

~

“No way I’m doing that batty boy crap! Does that bitch take us for fucking poofs?!”

Whilst Mr Track’s outburst showed an emotionally charged position, Mr Trick approached the situation in a more rational way, shrugging his broad shoulders:

“I would do it for the money, but not with her watching. I’m uncomfortable with somebody watching.”

Mr Tick, however, saw no way to assist.

“Alas, I have to withdraw myself from this task, for I am in a steady relationship.  Sexual intercourse of any kind with a third party would be considered cheating. And we just witnessed what the loss of trust can do to a marriage.”

“We can bring him here and make some sounds, so the crazy bitch thinks her hubby is taking it up the arse,” Track suggested, but found his leader in disagreement.

“Wouldn’t that add too burlesque a touch to our operation?”

~

“They are discussing the order.”

And louder, making sure the three burglars heard her, too, Riona added:

“The one with the largest cock goes first for maximum effect!”

Alistair, for obvious reasons eager to keep up with his wife, countered:

“Hey, don’t let her talk you into anything! Put her arse on the gas cooker and get me the fucking antidote! Then it’s the bank tomorrow, and we’ll all be happy!”

“You are sounding worried, honey…” she smirked.

“Worried? Why would I be worried? They are not gone pulling straws. Right now these half-wits are debating how to fry your traitorous arse.”

She scoffed.

“Just keep that canty attitude,” Alistair continued. “All I have to do is sit on this chair and watch them strappado the antidote out of you.”

With venom in her voice Riona hissed back:

“If they are in the mood, and I reckon whatever is in that box will see to that, they will nut up your arse within three minutes. I, on the other hand, am pretty sure that I can resist anything they come up with at least half an hour. Do the math! They cannot effort wasting time on me.”

“Half an hour? You will cry like a school girl the moment they lay hand on you!”

“Says the one who is about to get…” she clicked her tongue. “I hope it will be the sturdy one!”

“Seriously, you need professional help. To find out where that deviance originates from. I’m just curious. Something in your childhood?”

“Whoa, that’s rich, coming from a man who intends to torture me to death! But if you must know: That’s for all the times you tried to bugger me! ‘Deepen our fucking relationship?!’ ‘Explore a new level of fucking intimacy?!’ You wish!”

“At least I did try to improve our relationship. And to keep it from turning into… something like this.”

“Are you telling that blonde slut the same shit, too? Did she already bend over for you, you pervert?! Now you can improve your relationship with Huey, Dewey and Louie.”

Like on command, Tick, Trick and Track entered the kitchen. Whilst Stocky was lingering in the background and Mr Track helping himself to a Heineken from the refrigerator, the leader leant self-importantly against the island from where he had a good view on both his hosts. Riona bent forwards to Alistair as far as her bonds allowed it:

“Squeal like a pig!”

Mr Tick cleared his throat, then spoke up.

“We had come to a decision which will ensure the cooperation of either of you alike.”

She almost had pity with Alistair. To be brutally honest, multiple homosexual anal rape hadn’t been the thing she had wished for him at their wedding day. But he could be such a wimp! Riona was very well aware of her questionable fondness of quarrelling and what effect it had on a person so in need of harmony as Alistair. One harsh word of hers, and he caved in, which only enraged her even more. If she thought about it, his stunt with that stupid electro shocker had been the first time he actually had been standing up to her ever.

“Thing is,” Tick continues, “we are not prone to uphill gardening. Hence we decided to not touch Mr McIntosh inappropriately. Which, sadly, brings us to the topic of encouraging Mrs McIntosh to reveal the nature of the antidote by other means.”

Riona felt the sudden urge to swallow. Maybe the squealing would be hers to do.

~

Ro suddenly did not look so smug anymore. Well, she had it coming. Why did she always have to be so damn stubborn?! Not enough that the wife he once had hoped to live with happily ever after despised him. She was also determined to see him dead. And yet: Why wasn’t he able to just lean back and enjoy the show? He wasn’t the sick bastard she was taking him for; if he was honest to himself, he had never intended to torture her to death – he just had wanted to torture her a little bit and then kill her normally. He would have been in control of what would have happened to Ro. But now that trio was in charge, and he felt downright cuckolded. After all, to torment one’s significant other was an intimate act. To get the antidote was imperative, but Alistair would rather see his wife giving it to him by her own free will. He fought the thought that followed next, right behind. But his mental struggle was in vain, and another worry sank into his mind.

What if the three blokes screw up in their attempt to make her talk? Cutting a finger off or taking a razor blade to her eye?

She had been right all along, he scolded himself. What a pathetic wimp he was! Hoping they would go easy on the bitch who had vexed and poisoned him!

However, the leader had obviously decided for a different approach.

“Mr Track, please hand me the mobile phones over, would you be so kind?”

Track received the two smartphones from the kitchen table, where they had been deposited after considered unworthy to be stowed in his pal’s duffle bag.

“Matching background pictures – how romantic…”

He acquainted with the devices before continuing.

“Alas, once holding the antidote in hands, we have to administer it to Mr McIntosh at once, judging by Mrs McIntosh’s continuing innuendoes. Which will leave us in dire lack of any leverage once he will have entered the bank and thus eluded our reach.”

In spite of Mr Tick’s verbose statement Alistair still failed to see where things were heading to. So he was left slightly confused when the leader first shot a picture of him with Riona’s mobile phone and then turned to her.

“Would you please have a look at the directory?” Tick asked whist holding the second phone, Alistair’s, in front of her face.

“Which of these persons listed only with their first names do you reckon to be your husband’s closest friend?”

Riona eyed him suspiciously.

“Why?”

“Trust me: This is far more civilised than the alternatives.”

She kept gazing at him, but finally, without looking at the display, did answer.

“Try Ewan.”

Tick tampered with both devices for a moment.

“Ewan just received a picture of his best friend tied to a chair, Mrs McIntosh, sent from your phone – of course with some gleeful lines in your name so he isn’t going to take it seriously and call the police. Pray imagine, however, what would happen if he were to learn about Mr McIntosh’s untimely demise! Surely both he and the authorities would see said picture in a different light.”

Loopy plan, Alistair had to admit, although not entirely sure what to tell Ewan.

“Same question to you, Mr McIntosh.”

“Why me? Just get me that bloody antidote!”

“Your wife will be feeling more comfortable knowing that you cannot murder her either, once you’ve got it.”

“Well, I would be feeling more comfortable looking forward to it.”

“Yet my associates and I appreciate if no homicide at all is connected to our operation – on that point your wife was right.”

“No way, she’s in for it. That, or I send the coppers back here the moment I walk into that bank.”

“Where they will find your spouse, eager to testify against you on attempt murder. And it goes without saying that she will mention the box and its content as well since she cannot access it.”

Fuck.

“Just keep in mind – and that goes for both of you: It will be easier to explain these pictures to your respective friends with both of you alive than to the police with one of you dead. Everybody gained sufficient insight?”

Loopy plan indeed…

“So, Mr McIntosh,” the leader requested, “any preferences concerning the next photograph’s receiver?”

Alistair frowned, but then chuckled dryly. If nothing else, he could at least have his fun with that.

“Shannon.”

Opposite him Riona groaned, knowing just as well as he did that she would never hear the end of it once Shannon would have seen a picture like that.

“At least take that pervy ball gag off my neck!”

Much to Alistair’s disappointment Mr Tick did her the favour and put the contraption onto the island. Again there was a fake shutter click. Satisfied with himself, the leader stepped back and handed the phones to Mr Track who was still enjoying his beer.

“You heard the man, Ro. Are you going to tell me about the poison now?”

Riona took her time, raising her chin, checking the spotlessness of the stainless steel extractor hood, then sighed and looked at him as if he were but a miserable creature, not capable of getting anything straight without her help.

“Okay, if I must…”

“And?”

“And what, honey?”

“Riona!”

She met his unduly haste with a deep groan.

“Alsangania.”

“Bloodroot?” Tick enquired.

“Yes.”

“You poisoned me with Bloodroot?!”

“I never noticed this kitchen to have an echo,” she snarled back.

~

Apparently Alistair had heard a story or two about the rigours of Bloodroot poisoning. He was ghastly pale as he spoke again:

“Okay, that’s not cool anymore, Ro. Just give me the antidote.”

As a woman of very keen sense for details, it amused her how her drunkard of a husband was headlessly switching between her real name and her nickname. When he had called her Ro earlier this night, it might have been out of scotch-supported sereneness or even high spirits. Now it was the desperate try to call upon the remains of that battered bond between them. As desperate as underlining the gravity of the situation by calling her Riona. She would push it a little further, maybe watching him start cramping up.

“Say ‘pretty pleasie please’.”

“Seriously, Mrs McIntosh, you have had your fun,” urged Tick, and Stocky came forth to position himself uncomfortably close to Alistair’s snuff kit.

Spoilsports.

“The medicine cabinet in the master bathroom. You want the vial on the top shelf.”

“Mr Track, if you be so kind…”

Track reluctantly put his beer on the counter and headed for the door. She heard him trudging up the stairs and opening doors on the first floor. After a short period of near silence, his voice droned down into the kitchen.

“Which one again?”

Riona rolled her eyes and shouted back: “The one labelled ‘Antidote – do not give to Alistair’.”

She casted a sidelong glance at the leader.

“It’s hard to find competent personnel nowadays, isn’t it?”

“Thank you for pointing that out, Mrs McIntosh.”

To her utmost surprise, Track returned with the correct item: a small flask which she had fitted with a random label to make it look a bit like a perfume sample as well as to seal it off – just in case hubby became nosy.

“This one?”

She nodded. A movement she did not find as difficult as she had reckoned to. In fact, it wasn’t so much Alistair getting away that annoyed her, but Tick having bested her. In the light of this it was only suitable that he himself claimed the honour to instil the potion, after surgically dissecting the seal with the box cutter from the counter. Alistair gulped the clear liquid down and made a sour face from its strong taste. So her unfaithful, sexually deviant husband wouldn’t die by her hand. How disappointing.

“And now?” asked Track.

“Now we will wait,” he got as an answer from his leader. “Actually, now that so many an obstacle has been finally overcome, I reckon we may have reason to raise glasses.”

“Yeah! But not with this green piss.”

He shoved the empty beer bottle away.

“Eh, eh, eh. Please do not forget to rinse your saliva off it.”

Mr Track mewled, yet did as he was bidden. Meanwhile, Stocky disappeared into the living room, only to show up again with a nearly full spirit bottle. His keen eyes must have caught sight of the house bar long ago.

“Ah, very good, Mr Trick,” the leader praised, “very good indeed!”

He took the loot from his “associate” to study the label.

“Lowland malt, triple distilled – adequate.”

“Oi, that’s the last bottle I’ve got!” clamoured Alistair, turning his head this way and that in an attempt to see what was going on behind his back.

Neither he nor any one of their unwelcomed guests noticed Riona’s eyes flickering sideways to the empty whisky bottle still standing on the island. The one her husband had drunk from all night. Not that it mattered any more. She had already recognised the grey label on the nearly full one Tick was still examining so cheerfully. Auchentoshan Classic. The one from the bar. The one personally seasoned with Bloodroot. The one Alistair had never taken because that borderline alcoholic had had a secret stash! Perhaps in the garage. Probably in his car. He had come home with his back-up bottle and only went to the bar for a glass. The whole evening he had poisoned himself with nothing but alcohol!

Mr Tick unscrewed the bottle and filled the three glasses Trick had also brought. (Riona had waited with the refinement until Alistair had opened it for the first time, so he would not be able to tell that someone had messed with it.)

She had to think quickly now. One shot. Whom to take out? Quick! Alistair would not drink anything anymore, that’s for sure. They were about to drink, though. Good. No, bad!

Tick handed the glasses around.

Bad when not usable against them. Her mind played and dismissed variants like during a game of chess. Alistair again, then – Tick’s mobile phone principle: Hard to explain to the police with one of us dead, how he had put it. Yet trying to wheedle her husband into drinking would make them suspicious. Think, Riona! What would not make them suspicious? Her eyes focussed on Alistair, sitting on his chair, spots of milk dried on his waistcoat.

“What about me?”

“What about you, Mrs McIntosh?” requested Tick.

“Don’t you think I can’t use something strong, either? Fine bunch of gentlemen you are…!”

For a moment that what was visible of the leader’s face showed genuine embarrassment.

“How neglectful of me!”

Quickly a fourth glass was filled.

“Allow me.”

He brought the glass towards her lips.

“I’m grown up; I can drink on my own.”

“Not unless you have at least one hand free. And since you already gave proof of being a tricky one, this isn’t going to happen.”

Her eyes sent daggers at him, yet Riona allowed him to instil the scotch. The small amount of spirit was enough to fill her mouth with liquid warmth, a rich sensation still to be changed by the characteristic burning of alcohol. But the knowledge of the lethal substance within caused her throat to literally cramp up. Keeping the first sip, she summoned all willpower and let Mr Tick grant her a second one. He was clearly intrigued, which only made him wince harder when she jerk her head back. Riona coughed heavily, as though she had swallowed the wrong way. Under retching sounds she got rid of both draughts, the whisky partly spraying out, partly raining down onto her chin first, then down her pyjamas’ top and trousers.

Trick and Track chuckled at her performance. Tick put her glass on the counter.

“I am terribly sorry, Mrs McIntosh,” he stated in an apologising tone. “If this was caused by me, I assure you it was not intended.” He took his own glass “If this was caused by yourself, I assure you I am still not going to free you.”

“Trying to pull something off, huh?” Alistair taunted.

“Shut up, pisshead.”

“Very classy.”

“Please,” the leader conciliated, “both of you have enough for the night, be it alcohol or any other method of ending one’s or another’s life.”

A few steps away from him Mr Track cleared his throat.

“Oh yes,” Tick turned to his mighty fellowship, “what a particularly well-formulated transition! Gentlemen…” he raised his glass, “slàinte!”

Still bent forwards from her faked coughing fit, her hair partly covering her face, Riona gazed at them as they drank to their leader’s toast, dark eyes gleaming through dark strands.

“Slàinte mhath.”

Already wisened up during the recent events, Mr Tick eyed her suspiciously.

“What now…?”

“The whisky you and your lackeys just drank…” she made a dramatic pause – just one of her proven little techniques to put people on edge.

“What is with it? Pray tell.”

“…was poisoned.”

The reaction this latest revelation triggered reached from indifferent (Mr Trick) over puzzled (Mr Track) to laconic (Alistair).

“Is there anything you haven’t poisoned?” her significant other demanded.

“Your chewing gums, for example.”

“What? But you— what?!

“With you coming home every other night boiled as an owl, where do you think I would hide a strong-tasting poison?”

She scoffed.

“Chewing gums, really? I still can’t believe you bought that. But scold yourself not, for you are in the best of company.” She nodded towards the three home invaders.

Whilst Alistair was processing this new information, the leader settled for “investigative”, demonstratively weighing the halfway emptied bottle in one hand.

“I hate to be rude, Mrs McIntosh, but methinks you are lying to us.”

He spoke a little bit quicker than before, though.

Ah, the sweet seed of doubt…!

“Be as rude as you want to: You just drank the poisoned whisky meant for my hubby. I let that sink in for a minute because you seem to still be stuck in the denial phase.”

“There was nothing wrong with me the whole time?!”

“Later, Alistair!” she hissed at him. “You were just lucky.”

“And the other bottle?” he insisted.

“Jings, crivvens…!” snapped Riona, at the end of her tether. “This whisky – from the bar – was meant for you! How would I know that you have another bottle hidden from me?”

The scarcely lit kitchen was silent for some moments, and she could almost physically sense how the situation was tilting in her favour.

“Why would we believe you now, after you were fooling us and your husband the whole night?”

“Oh, I don’t expect you to take my word for it, Mr Tick.”

Riona looked down on her pyjamas, indicating them all to do the same.

“Now, that’s funny…” again with that well-balanced rise in her voice at the end of the sentence, “I never noticed scotch to cause such nasty stains.”

Where the spilled whisky had soaked in the silk, pale-red areas appeared as the poison was attacking the delicate fabric’s colour.

“Bugger…!”

“Indeed, Mr Tick. You may now commence the utter soiling of your underwear,” she advised in a fake Irish accent.

~

That was it. That woman was too much for him! Alistair felt the welter of emotions taking toll on him. Ironically, the only thing he could think of to calm him down again was a draught of whisky. Yet the only one available was in that bottle the leader was clenching. He had no doubt about the poison in it. Actually, of all three options – chewing gum, car scotch and bar scotch – this one was his favourite to be poisoned, for obvious reasons. And ironically again, Riona of all people concerned was the only one sharing his opinion right now. How did Ro even manage to turn the whole situation? And how could he ever have fallen in love with such a manipulative person?! A woman who was determined to bend anyone and anything around her to her will. A woman who would take three home invaders on whilst being bound to a kitchen chair. This bitch truly had that special edge to her.

Seems he just had given himself the answer to both his questions…

“You bitch, you poisoned us!” that git Track yelled at her.

“Sue me, eejit.”

He brushed past Alistair’s chair, but before he could close in to her, the leader held him back. Mr Tick, though, wasn’t amused by the latest twist, too.

“Unfortunately for you, we’ll do something far more—”

“Fifteen minutes.”

“Pardon?”

“Give or take some minutes. Most likely the latter, if the alcohol is boosting the process.”

“You reckon we cannot kill you properly and in an unpleasant enough way within a quarter of an hour?”

“I trust you can, but you won’t manage to cover all your traces – properly – and reach a hospital. In the best case you receive the antidote just in time whilst carrying my DNA on your inconspicuous burglar outfits.” She inspected the stains on her pyjamas. “The antidote for a poison to be found on a crime victim only a few miles away.”

Mr Tick pondered her words for some long seconds.

“Damn, you are good at that, lady,” he finally proclaimed.

“I’ve got my moments.”

“Indeed. And by now I do come to see where your husband may have a problem with that attitude.”

Tick started to circle the island.

“Do you have any more of the antidote? No, of course you haven’t. Not for three more persons.”

He stopped halfway, obviously having reached a conclusion.

“Mr Trick, take our stuff. Mr Track, grab some bottles of milk. We have already outstayed Mr and Mrs McIntosh’s welcome.”

Whilst the stocky bloke shouldered his duffle bag with an indifferent expression, Track muttered Irish curses into the fridge. When he re-appeared, his arms were full of as many milk bottles as he was able to carry. Despite their loads, both left with considerable speed. As the leader set himself in motion to follow them, Ro called after him.

“Wait! You bastards! Cut me loose!”

“I am devastated, Mrs McIntosh, but we need a head start.” Mr Tick stepped between the chairs once again. “Furthermore, it is one of my paramount rules to leave a scenery the way I came upon it.”

He was blocking the view as he reached out to Riona, but Alistair could see her struggle.

“No! No-nmph!”

Mr Tick let go of her. Much to Alistair’s bitter amusement, the red ball gag was resting in Ro’s unwilling mouth again.

“Mr McIntosh. You have a fabulous home and a lovely wife, and we enjoyed being your guest. Alas, your better half made it very clear that her hospitality is wearing thin. In this sense: So long, Mr McIntosh.”

“Yes,” Alistair sighted, “Godspeed.”

“Mrs McIntosh.”

“‘o ‘uck ‘our’el’!”

~

The front door fell into its lock, and the trio was gone for good. Great, just great! Not only that she was bereft of her personal vendetta, not to mention the finest pieces of her jewellery case (note to self: cancel credit cards). She also had ended up with that disgusting ball wedged into her mouth again!

Riona glanced at her husband. He gave her a smug look, then his eyes wandered to the kitchen island. She didn’t need to follow his glance, for she already had the very same thought.

The pliers.

Like on cue, both started to stot with their chairs towards the centre counter. An almost comical sight for any beholder, Ro reckoned between the draining jumps. The chairs were heavy, designed to be prestigious. The way she was bound to hers, she could not grab it, so its whole weight pulled at the zip ties. With every hop they cut deeper into her already raw wrists and ankles. She was closer to the snuff kit, but Alistair had the quicker pace. Wimp or no wimp, he outweighed her by two and a half stone, and nothing of it was fat.

She reached the island a split second before him. Hectically she put all her weight to the front to tilt the chair. She also leant over as far as possible, ignoring the additional pain in her wrists and the strain in her wretched arms. With squinting eyes Riona navigated herself to the pliers, until the tip of her nose finally touched one rubberised grip. If she managed to fish it with nose, she could shove the tool over the edge and into her whisky-stained lap. She had no idea how to get it from there into her hand, but would cross that bridge when she would come to it. From the corners of her eyes she saw Alistair getting into reach and leashing out to deliver a Glasgow kiss. At the last moment, she pulled her head back, and he smashed his own into the marmoreal edge.

“Argh! Bloody fuck!”

Serves him right!

Her evasion manoeuvre, however, had caused the pliers to fall to the floor. She hopped back from the island, positioning herself. Then, spending no thought on the possible outcome, Riona rocked fiercely until her chair tilted over to the side. She hit the ground hard, restrained leg first. The pain shooting through her knee made her bite into the rubber gag. Bite it hard until the first fog of pain cleared. Her hands began to feverishly search the floor for the elusive tool, although her fingers were barely reaching the tiles. The cable ties fixing her wrists to the backrest’s strut cut deeper still as she strained against them to gain some more centimetres.

Behind her, Alistair’s chair thumb to the floor, accompanied by a suppressed “Ooph!”.

Riona increased her efforts to frantic heights, yet stayed feeble. Again and again her finger tips brushed the cold kitchen tiles she had literally spent weeks to choose for. But no pliers revealed themselves to her touch.

Alistair’s triumphant “Ha!” made her freeze.

“No need to search anymore, Ro!”

She hoped he was bluffing, but then an ominous snap reached her from Alistair’s presumed position. Then some more whilst he was cursing under his breath. Riona tried to look around, but her ties were unyielding as ever, and her leg was painfully trapped.

Steps.

She squealed as her chair, and she with it, was raised back up. A moment later her dear husband leant over her shoulder, still slightly panting from his act of escapology and with a small laceration on his forehead

“Hello, love!”

He circled her chair partway and hunkered down next to her.

“Where were we?”

He knew exactly where they had been! Tying her up and snuffing her! Riona only wondered which one that pervert enjoyed more. Somewhat absentminded, he beheld the pliers in his hand. If Alistair had wanted to kill her slowly before, he might now be looking for a course of action even beyond that. So why wasn’t she afraid, then? Why wasn’t she trembling with fear? She had been anxious as he had forced her to surrender to him. She had been anxious when the three eejits had appeared from the dark. But had she been feart? Maybe she was the cold, calculating bitch he took her for. Or maybe she still hadn’t got rid of the romance-born delusion that nothing bad could happen to her as long as he was around.

Well, that theory was about to be put to the test…

~

Silly. They had just been burglarised, robbed, tied and threatened. Well, half of the tying he had done, and most of the threatening had come from Riona. One might assume that this was more than enough to call it a night. Looking down, Alistair noticed his wife clenching her fists. Maybe she was trying to pump some feeling back into her hands. Or maybe she expected him to tear out her fingernails. Of course he had considered such a technique in the vortex of his vengeance phantasies, but it had never appealed to him. Besides, for such a job needle nose pliers would be more suited.

“Okay, Ro. That will hurt.”

~

Alistair was right about that one! The pain was severe, to say the least. First there had only been the dry snap of the pliers and the sudden cease of tension around her wrists. A moment later the circulation set in, and Riona bit into her gag. The cable ties had been on her for several hours, and as the feeling in her hands finally returned, it returned with an almost unbearable amount of stinging and pricking. She received more of the same as her ankles were freed.  Yet all she could think of was to get rid of that fucking gag! With tingling fingers she felt for the buckle in the nape of her neck. Alistair reached out for her.

“Let me—”

She jumped off the chair and nearly fell against the counter.

“ ‘ack o’!”

Indeed he backed off whilst Riona surrounded the island with unsure steps, bringing the massive structure between them. When she finally managed to open the buckle, she tore the ball gag out of her mouth and threw it at him.

“You arsehole!”

She rubbed the feeling back into her wrists and jaw. The muscles at the sides of her face felt like wires. It would take hours for all the cramps and strains to be worked out of them. With a sleeve Riona wiped the saliva off her chin whilst sending sharp glares across the island. Her husband didn’t seem to take much offence at her insult or the thrown fetish item – which, unlike the wine glass earlier, had found its target. In fact he appeared strangely serene, as if having gained a deeper insight. Alistair had once told her that hearing her occasionally cursing had never failed to intrigue him. According to him it created a refreshing contrast to her sophisticated, assertive professional persona – just as wearing his shirts or drinking beer straight from the bottle.

The sole fact that this statement came to her mind right now enraged Riona even more. How dared he find her wrath intriguing?! How dared he realise the ridiculousness of this night’s events?!

Her gaze left Alistair and fell on the stun gun, which was waiting harmlessly in neighbourhood of the never used shashlik skewers. Riona leapt forwards and grabbed the device, but Alistair was quick as well and seized her arm, catching her off-balance. He pulled her partly across, partly around the counter before losing his footing himself. Stumbling back, he eventually tripped over one of their chairs and fell, dragging her with him. His impact on the floor must have been as hard as hers, but still that bastard had an unyielding grip to her forearm!

“You bloody—”

The shocker set off with a crackling sound. A white-blue light arc raved between its electrodes, burning its image into Riona’s eyes. She squealed in surprise and lost hold on the handle. Alistair released her arm and recoiled. The device hit the tiles, and he kicked it away into the darkness. Riona wriggled away from him till her back touched the island. With a groan Alistair shoved himself along the floor and leant against the massive centre structure as well, albeit two sensible metres to her left. She waited in the near darkness, one hand resting on her already swelling knee, which had suffered again due to her second fall. Waited for the light arc’s ghost image to fade. Waited for her husband’s turn. It was his turn now, wasn’t it?

Several minutes passed in silence. At first she didn’t dare close her eyes. But then she closed them nevertheless. What was the worst that could happen?

She heard him chuckle.

“I never expected our marriage to be perfect, but that was a bit over the top.”

“Oh, shut up, why don’t you?”

He fell silent again for some minutes, then had another go. Whilst the first attempt might have been for the sake of reconnaissance, this one at least sounded more sincerely.

“Did you swallow some of that stuff, Ro?”

“I’m fine, fuck you very much,” she hissed.

If he was hoping for a ceasefire, she would be happy to disappoint him. Apart from that, the linings of her mouth had been in too brief a contact with the poisoned whisky. She winced as Alistair suddenly stood up, but after wetting a tea towel he slumped back to the floor. With a pained hiss he pressed the cold cloth against his forehead. Her husband had been – undeservedly – lucky only to sustain a bruise with little blood instead of a larger laceration. In combination with blood he was useless.

“They took all of our milk,” he stated as he took the towel away again.

“At least you’ve still got your car. That’s the important thing,” Riona snapped.

“And if you did swa—”

“Forget the bloody milk! As long as you don’t drink a cow-load, it only makes it worse.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, ‘oh’. Now leave me alone!”

Riona rubbed her smarting knee. The damn swelling became worse. She really wasn’t in the mood for any more antics about milk, whisky or Irishmen. Out of the corners of her eyes she saw Alistair re-folding the tea towel and, leaning towards her, nudging her with it.

“At least put that on your knee. Don’t worry; there’s just water in it.”

She gave him a pissy look. Did Alistair really think she would let him get away so easily? Did he expect her to believe he would let her get away so easily, too?

“Crivvens, Ro,” her husband sighted, “do you know why I cut your ties?”

No, she didn’t, but had a feeling that he was about to tell her.

“Because of the initial thought that hit me right after these three imbeciles had left: ‘First thing in the morning we have to call Ironclad and get that alarm fixed.’ For some reason it was not: ‘Second thing in the morning I get that alarm fixed, right after disposing of my wife’s body.’”

Riona chose her sternest expression, jaw all set. For some moments she kept frowning at Alistair, then snatched the towel from him.

“You’re so sleeping on the couch tonight.”

~The End ~

v1.15

About Venom

Bloke from Central Europe; Petrol Head; Observer of Human Depravity View all posts by Venom

2 responses to “Visiting the McIntoshs

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