FICTION: J.R. by Rachel Common

Standing out of the rain, under the elongated grey portico, looking out across the asphalt gulf that is Central Park West, the man in the ivory wool jacket and beige linen trousers quietly smokes his cigarette. The sound of the gilded doors of the impressive apartment building at his back causes him to glance over his left shoulder. A doorman in a smart navy uniform stands in the open entrance,

“You need me to call you a cab, sir?” The thick Brooklyn voice calls out across the sidewalk. The man in the ivory wool jacket smirks, draws a long breath through his cigarette,

“No, thank you.” He remarks, billowing white smoke past his thin lips as he talks.

“Well, if the weather keeps up, you’re welcome to step inside.” The doorman calls, before shutting the entrance behind him. The man in the ivory wool jacket smirks again, and subtly nods his head. He then slips the left cuff of his brown silk shirt over the pink-gold watch face. Five minutes past the hour of nine. What he is waiting for should be along shortly. Carefully, he tucks the Grande Tapisserie dial of his Swiss-made timepiece back beneath the cuff of his shirt. Dressed in his finery, he naturally finds himself quite the enticement for passers-by. A curio worth ogling in a moment’s passing. A thing that must be viewed and studied, even if just for a few seconds as they wander past. Standing outside of the opulence that is the Beresford, however, he does not look out of place, just an alluring enticement in his fine fashion. A resident of the apartment building, stepping out for a moment’s fresh air. Or, a party-guest relegated to the wet outdoors in his search for a tobacco break. The rain starts to pick up in its pace, falling a little faster with every tick of the small hand of his lavish timepiece. He effortlessly draws the burnt orange wool pocket-handkerchief from the ivory wool jacket and dabs a few drops from his drawn face, as stiletto heels click along the pavement to his left. He checks his watch again; ten minutes past the hour of nine. This could be the one he’s been waiting for. He turns coolly in his investigation.

Dressed more for summer than the present fall weather, she dashes along the sidewalk toward the Beresford with two medium brown bags synonymous with Bloomingdale’s hanging elegantly from her right arm. In the crook of her left arm, she carries a grey leather handbag, which itself must have cost a considerable amount. As she hurries toward the shelter of the portico, the hem of her blue pleated midi skirt swings with each step. In the darkened evening, she wears a pair of large sunglasses with blue rims. A peculiarity for most, but those accustomed to New York fashion rarely lift an eyebrow to the accessory’s night-time favourability. The city has become a hub for celebrities seeking a somewhat quieter existence to the one L.A offers. Coming to the portico, she seems to have her eyes on the man in the ivory wool jacket at the sidewalk’s edge. She hesitates, steps toward the doors, then hesitates again. The man in the ivory wool jacket lifts his cigarette to his small mouth, as he watches her. She moves to him, intrigued,

“Mind if I bum a smoke from you? My husband thinks I’m quitting, so I can’t keep them in the apartment anymore.” She remarks warmly, brushing a wayward strand of her brunette hair back behind her ear. Obligingly, the man smiles, as he reaches into his jacket and produces a packet of cigarettes and a golden lighter. It looks vintage, “Thanks.” She accepts one of the smoke sticks and holds it for him to light. Quietly, he acquiesces, and she soon billows a thin trail of white smoke past her red painted lips, “So, you waiting for a cab?”

“No, I’m waiting for a fella that lives here; Mason Lowery.” The man remarks, his brown eyes concentrated on the green park across the asphalt.

“Mason… Lowery? He’s… He’s my husband.” The woman frowns curiously, “Why are you waiting for him? Who are you?”

“I’m J.R, I work with your husband.” He introduces himself, “He invited me over, to discuss an upcoming project over drinks this evening. I guess he forgot to tell you.”

“J.R? Aren’t you a little old to be using initials?” She eyes him suspiciously.

“I’ve always been known as J.R, and I guess I’ll be J.R for the rest of my life now.” He smirks. She lets out a somewhat condescending laugh in false amusement, before glancing to the doors of the apartment,

“How about we move indoors, out of the damp?” She then purrs, sidling up close to the man. He flicks his almost spent cigarette to the gutter and gestures for her to lead the way.

Stepping into the honeyed tones of Apartment 2B’s wide lobby, the woman exasperatedly dumps the shopping bags by the front door,

“I’m going to fire that maid; she never does what I tell her…” She remarks under her breath, as she moves toward a walnut dresser against the parallel wall. There, she switches two ornaments around, “I always remark how they’d look better this way round, but she always puts them back in the same place after dusting!” She suddenly remembers her guest, “I-I’m sorry. The lounge is just through there, go make yourself comfortable. I’ll bring some drinks through in a moment; whiskey?”

“Whiskey’s fine. Straight, no rocks.” He states, waiting at the door a moment. With the woman out of sight, he peers furtively into the bags she has left in the entrance. Noticing a square silk scarf similar in colour to his own pocket-handkerchief, he rapidly switches the two items and wanders casually into the lounge of the affluent apartment. The white walls give an air of crispness, the foliate scenery beyond the three black-frame windows look like paintings from afar. As he wanders in further, he dusts his fingertips along the white plaster hearth and watches himself in the gilded-frame mirror as he passes. His brown eyes stare knowingly back at him, his mouth turned upward in the subtlest of grins. Much of the parquet floor in this room is hidden beneath the large amber-coloured area rug, but the eyes are soon drawn to the showpiece. The garishly contemporary orange sofa standing proud against the long white wall. He is still staring at this monstrosity of furnishings, when the woman wanders back through with a tray. On this tray she carries a bottle of whiskey and two glasses, as well as a champagne flute,

“Not much of a whiskey gal myself.” She smirks, setting the tray down on the walnut coffee table in the centre of the room. She then notices J.R.’s eyes gazing at the sofa, “Oh, quite the eye-catcher, isn’t it?” She purrs proudly. Slipping into the seat, champagne flute in hand, she strokes the garishly-coloured fabric, “Won’t you come join me? It’s quite comfortable.”

The man in the ivory wool jacket moves coolly across the amber rug and slips into the large seat,

“It is rather comfortable.” He smiles. She nods in satisfaction, reaching over to claim his drink from the tray, and holds the glass out to him, “Thank you.” He nods appreciatively. She tucks her legs beneath her, as he now gets a proper look at her green eyes. They cannot seem to keep from staring at him,

“I don’t know if Mason has already told you about me, or not, but I’m Chelsea.” She introduces herself at last.

“No, Mason has talked about you somewhat.”

“In what way? What’s he told you? That I’m a spendthrift; that I can’t keep any money in the bank? He needs to learn that we can’t take it with us in death, so why not spend it?”

“You can’t take what you buy either, though.” J.R counters.

“Are you married, Jay? I’m going to call you Jay from now on, okay?”

“Sure.” He nods hesitantly, “And, no, I’m not married. Not yet.”

“You have a girlfriend?”

“No.” He shakes his head, “No girlfriend.”

“Boyfriend?”

“Ha, no.”

“Just thought I’d ask. Not that you give off those vibes.” She places a hand to his thigh. He does not push her off. Instead, he sets his glass of whiskey down on the coffee table,

“What kind of vibes do I give off?” He growls alluringly, his eyes staring hungrily at her.

Leaning carefully over to set her champagne flute on the table alongside his whiskey glass, she nestles herself closer to him on the orange sofa, a hand to his chocolate silk shirt,

“I probably shouldn’t be admitting this…” She begins, “But, the champagne bubbles go to my head.” She confesses.

“They do?”

“Mm-hm.” She gestures for him to lean in closer, “They also make me do the naughtiest of things.” She grabs the lapel of his ivory wool jacket. He grabs her wrist,

“I don’t need any influence in order to do the naughtiest of things.” He assures her.

“Mason will be home soon…” She sighs, running her hand along his shoulder and around his neck, holding him there with the lightest of touches. He smirks,

“Mason won’t be home for a while yet.” He states.

“How do you know?”

“He’s gone for a drink with someone else, first.” He explains, “Sent me a text just after I arrived under the portico out front; told me he’d be back here by no later than nine-forty-five.”

“Gives us twenty minutes.” She uses her other hand to guide his toward the hem of her skirt. He draws his hand back. She kisses him, passionately, “Don’t be scared; no-one will hear us. I can be quiet.”

“I’m sure you can.” He remarks darkly, before shoving the square silk scarf deep into her throat.

Leaning over her, he moves to kneel on top of her, with his hands wrapping tight around her neck. Desperate to escape, she claws at his back and kicks out with her legs. The champagne flute tumbles over on the coffee table; the whiskey glass crashes to the floor. The way he leans over her makes it difficult for her to reach for her mouth, to pull the gag from her throat. As promised, she is quiet, though she tries to scream. The damp silk clogs her throat, as she fights for air through her nostrils. The man in the ivory wool jacket exerts such force on her slender neck that his knuckles turn white and his teeth become gritted in his determination. Even strands of his impeccably styled dark brown hair fall out of place. It only takes twelve seconds for the woman beneath him to fall unconscious, but he keeps his hands wrapped tight around her neck for a couple of minutes. To be certain that the intended purpose of his sudden attack has come to fruition. Carefully, slowly lifting his hands away, he slips two fingers along the line of the carotid artery at the side of her windpipe. Holding these two fingers firmly in place for ten seconds, he lets a sinisterly dark smile sweep across his drawn face. Death has been achieved. Clawing the damp lump of orange silk from her throat, he rises from the sofa. It is an awkward manoeuvre, clambering over the prone body of the woman, but he manages to keep some of his effortlessness in his movements. He then throws the dampened scarf into a nearby waste-basket and wanders across to the large wall-mounted mirror over the hearth. Straightening the loose strands of his hair back into their proper places, he still smiles as the front door opens. His hands fall to his sides, as footsteps approach the lounge. They stop,

“I see it’s done.” The cold voice of a man states.

“It’s done, Mr Lowery.”

Rachel Common

Rachel Common is a retail team leader by day and a writer by night, currently living in Messingham, England. She is hoping to begin a BA (Hons) English Language and Literature degree with the Open University in the autumn so that she can make writing her primary profession. But she is not letting that stop her from trying or honing her skills in the meantime.

If you enjoyed J.R., leave a comment and let Rachel know.

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