The Wedding – New Short Story by Anthony Self

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Anthony Self

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‘Are you ready?’

Michael inhaled deeply. He measured himself in the mirror. His cravat was slightly offset. He adjusted it, exhaled and nodded. He felt a deferential pat on his shoulder. He turned and smiled at Thomas, his best man.

‘You know,’ Thomas said, ‘This is a tad morbid, even for you.’

Michael waved his hand dismissively and reached over for his jacket, slung over the hotel room chair.

‘I just want to enjoy the honeymoon. It would be playing on my mind if I didn’t sort it out today anyway. And also,’ he said, flashing a Cheshire-cat like grin, ‘It kills two birds with one stone. Have you got it?’

Thomas looked around the room and gave a small ‘ah’ when he located a golden coloured envelope on the dressing table. He slid it into Michael’s pocket, also with the wire.

‘Right then, let’s get you married.’

Down the hallway, they entered the lift and stood patiently whilst some muzak played through the tinny compartment. Thomas ignored the way Michael was playing with his hands as the lift descended – just nerves. He’d always been solid, and would see this through. The lift doors opened and Thomas marched forward into the reception area. The car was waiting for them, and it was a scenic fifteen-minute drive to the church. Thomas was getting slightly agitated at the way Michael kept on patting his jacket pocket, to remind himself that the wire and envelope were still there, but once again he just put it down to nerves. As the car pulled up outside the church, he wondered how Claudia was getting on with her end of things.

Michael noted that some guests were already arriving for the ceremony. A few people waved and cheered at him as he got out of the car. He waved back, looked at Thomas and nodded. Instead of going straight to the main entrance, he turned heel and made his way to the back of the church. Making sure no one was in sight, he fished the golden envelope out of his pocket and tore it open. He knew the details, but he wanted to make sure. He always made sure.

There was a picture, name and relevant details. He blew out a long, held in breath and stuffed the envelope back into his pocket. He moved to a small alcove where a rustic looking door with grated iron handle awaited him. It was open, as planned.

The room was small, with white washed walls. There was a small pew to the right and a coat stand in the corner. A man was sitting on the pew. Michael breathed a sigh of relief; he was on time.

The man, upon seeing Michael enter the room, stood to greet him. He was overweight, with brown leathery skin and a thick black beard. He was dressed in white, with the three top buttons undone to reveal a chest thick with wiry hair.

‘Michael, my friend,’ he said, with a slight South American accent, ‘glad to see you again, my dear, dear boy.’ He opened his arms and hugged Michael.

Michael exchanged pleasantries with the man and closed the door.

‘Did anyone see you enter?’ Michael asked, curiously.

The man shook his head. ‘No…I did as you ask. Why all the secrecy, Michael? Why all the…what do you call it? “Cloak and Dagger” games?’

Michael smirked, ‘Come now, Klaus – you know our business arrangements need to be held in private.’

The man smiled, rubbed his beard and nodded resignedly. ‘Yes, yes, of course. Could this not wait until after you are married though?’ He let out a hearty chuckle. Michael wondered how thick the walls were in the small room. Would the guests now entering the church hear them? He wondered.

‘Unfortunately this could not wait,’ Michael quickly whispered, taking Klaus by the arm. ‘It’s very important that you receive this information from my company today. Otherwise it ruins the plans.’

Klaus looked confused. Michael slowly lowered himself onto the pew. He motioned for Klaus to sit with him. Once he had lowered himself down, Michael wrapped his arm round the older man’s shoulders.

‘It’s very important that I give you this message,’ he iterated, ‘because we have been business associates for quite some years now.’ Klaus looked at the man about to be married with a sense of unease now.

‘Michael, what is all this about?’

With a sudden precision that only men like Michael could master with years of experience, the cheese wire in his pocket was out and round Klaus’ neck. Klaus gasped in horror, but was too slow to raise his hands up and prevent the wire enfolding around tightly like a vice. He kicked out in shock at first, but Michael was used to this and wrestled him down to the cool marble flooring.

‘You’ve been greedy, Klaus,’ Michael hissed as he tightened his grip. ‘We’ve been friends for years but you know the company can’t tolerate thieves.’ Klaus was gasping for air now, his face a bright beetroot colour.

They started thrashing on the floor. Michael could hear bells ringing from the church tower and knew he only had a few minutes. Claudia would be at the church doors soon, and he had no intention of keeping his bride waiting. A few twists and the job was done. Klaus’ lifeless body lay crumped on the floor. Michael checked himself down. A fleck of blood had stained his collar. He grimaced and tried rubbing it, but it just smeared into the white shirt. He cursed and put the cheese wire in his pocket with the creased envelope details.

Claudia was looking beautiful, as Michael knew she would. She sashayed down the aisle with a grace and exquisiteness that he would try to memorise for years to come, but would only be able to witness only once. As they met at the alter, he noted her eyes darting to his collar where Klaus’ blood was smeared slightly.

The ceremony went flawlessly, and they left the church with an abundance of rice being thrown on their heads, cheers, and clapping.

Thomas escorted them to their car, which was strewn with ribbons and spray paint. As he closed the door, he gave a minute nod to Thomas to convey that the job had been completed, and Thomas smiled and clapped him on the shoulder.

‘You’re getting sloppy,’ Claudia purred, as the photographers enclosed around the car windows. She stroked his collar.

‘Couldn’t be helped, darling,’ Michael responded, smiling as the cameras began flashing. ‘And besides,’ he continued, ‘dare I enquire to Klaus’ wife?’

She turned then, and kissed him passionately on the lips. All the cameras clicked and whirred, as this magical moment would be captured forever more.

‘Why, poison is far more subtle,’ she said calmly, ‘and before we get to the airport we’ll need to dispose of her body that’s currently in the boot.’

Michael smiled again. ‘I love you, darling.’

‘I love you too.’

The car engine roared to life and they drove away.

black tree

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