A Good Way To Go Part One
By: Peter Astle

When I saw the blue lights in my rear-view mirror, I knew it was over.

The turn off to the narrow access road leading to Crag Top was only a hundred yards ahead but I wasn't going to make it. I guess when there are two naked feet sticking out of both front windows of your car, chances are it's going to arouse a cop's suspicion.

The patrol car overtook my Astra, slowing slightly as he drew level with the driver's door. He stared across at my wife's right foot hanging in the air. I could only imagine what was going through his mind.

There was no way out of this.

My wife was, after all, dead in the back seat of the Astra, legs akimbo, ankles resting on top of the wound-down windows, both feet dangling in the cool evening air.

Sure enough, the cop pulled in front of me on the country road. A flashing red sign in his back window ordered me to STOP THE VEHICLE.

He got out of the patrol car, frowned at his walkie-talkie and slowly walked towards the driver's side of my car. It was difficult to read his expression in the twilight, but I was guessing 'bemused.' Maybe 'shocked'. I really couldn't tell.

I wound down my window a couple more inches and Bella's foot dropped and dangled to one side.

The cop leaned into the car and peered into the back seat. He looked at Bella, then at me. Then back at Bella again.

"Hello, officer," I said. "How can I help you?"

***

Killing my wife was easy, but now I had a problem on my hands.

How on earth was I going to move the body? There was a lot of it to shift.

Three-hundred and fifty-two pounds of it to be precise, if the weigh-in at the last Fat Club meeting could be believed. (It was actually a diet club, but that's what Bella called it.)

She was still wearing full make-up and her ruby-red lipstick glistened in the light. A large splodge of yellow mustard dribbled from the corner of her mouth, dotted with a few breadcrumbs. It was fair to say, in spite of the make-up, Bella did not look her best.

To be honest, I blame Bella's greed more than my own miscalculations for her sudden death. She was supposed to just take a single bite of the sandwich and then drift off into a malleable state of doziness. Not scoff the lot.

I followed the instructions from the suppliers - a shady Internet bunch - and injected the clear odorless liquid evenly between the four slices of glazed smoked ham, mixing it in with English mustard and thinly-sliced onion and tomato.

The ham sandwich was Bella's weekly 'incentive' treat, recommended by the Fat Club crowd. She was allowed one slice of ham on two wholemeal slices of bread after she returned from the weigh in. Not even a slice really—a wafer-thin slice.

But tonight, on the way back from Fat Club, Bella decided on two slices of ham. Then three. Then four. She claimed to have lost three pounds since the last weigh-in and was at risk of wasting away. Because of those extra slices of ham, I may have got a little carried away with the dosage.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way.

According to the shady Internet suppliers Bella should have just gone woozy and disorientated and suggestible, like someone sleepwalking. But when she popped the last chunky portion of sandwich into her mouth it didn't quite make it all the way. Her eyes suddenly glazed over and her head lolled to one side and the uneaten bit of the sandwich landed somewhere in her cleavage.

I certainly hadn't planned for her to die sitting in her armchair in the lounge. I wanted her just subdued enough so I could walk her to the Astra. That was the plan. Get her into the car, drive her to the hills.

Crag Top was one of our usual walks, lots of plunging cliff-tops along the woodland pathway, somewhere where we were seen walking regularly. Somewhere accidents occasionally happened.

I'd thought it though. Walking was part of Bella's exercise routine. We often bumped into Fat Club member up in the hills who would verify it was one of our regular treks. Should any questions be asked later, I would say that Bella and I had decided on an evening stroll.

Key witnesses would be Marjorie and Tony Mitchell. We often saw them up there walking their Jack Russell and we would stop to say hello. Things were different now, of course, since Marjorie and I discovered the affair between Bella and Tony Mitchell, but I was certain they would still both confirm it was not unusual for Bella and me to take an evening stroll at Crag Top.

And Tony was a retired policeman after all.

The last time we bumped into the Mitchells we met at a treacherous turning point where sheer rock plunges two hundred feet onto jagged outcrops and quarry-blasted boulders. Marjorie is almost as skinny as I am and we shared sympathetic smiles as Bella and Tony carefully negotiated their girths around one another on the narrow footpath next to the cliff. Had we known at the time that our respective spouses were enjoying more than a little extra pepperoni on their pizzas, we might have happily sent them both sailing over the edge of the cliff together there and then.

But we didn't know at the time, so we watched them both squeeze past one another that day and went our separate ways. Later, when Marjorie and I discovered the affair, we were furious with ourselves at the missed opportunity.

None of that mattered now, of course.

Getting Bella out of the armchair and into the car was impossible on my own. Not only was she dead, she was a dead weight. A dead weight of significant proportions.

I stared at her for some time, wondering how to make the job more … manageable.

I had a chainsaw in the garage, but it was a lot of fuss to set up and it made one hell of a racket. Besides, the thought of chopping Bella into convenient bite-size pieces made me feel a little bit queasy.

I thought about torching the place, going out for a long walk on my own in the hills, but rejected the idea. We lived in a semi-detached cottage in Derbyshire and flames had a way of spreading through the rafters.

And I didn't want to cause any more problems for old Ernie Cameron next door. Ernie was in his seventies and not in the best of health. And Kanya, his twenty-two-year-old Thai bride, was not the kind to forgive easily. She'd blame me if both houses caught alight and she was unlikely to be sympathetic to the loss of Bella in the flames. (Bella and Kanya had never seen eye to eye, not least because my wife was almost six feet tall and Kanya barely came up to my wife's breasts.)

I couldn't ring our kids either. Isabelle and Jason sort of liked their mother and wouldn't understand.

And there was no one at work I could think to call.

The problem with working for a small accountancy firm was that the staff were mainly accountants and not the kind of people who would willingly assist in the disposal of a dead body.

I certainly couldn't ring the police or the ambulance services. They would no doubt discover the poison-laced ham sandwich in Bella's stomach and I'd be thrown into a cell, probably for the rest of my days.

There was no other choice. I grabbed my phone from the coffee table and scrolled through my contact list.

I hesitated, my thumb over Marjorie's name, wondering what I was going to say to a woman I barely knew.

The only reason I had Marjorie's number programmed into my phone was because we'd struck up a kind of friendship after we discovered the roly-poly shenanigans going on with Bella and her husband, Tony, at the Fat Club.

I looked across at my wife sprawled in the armchair, a blob of mustard dripping from her mouth. I took a deep breath and pressed the button.

Marjorie picked up on the third ring. "Hello?"

"Marjorie, it me. Norris." I kept my voice low, my back to my wife. "Can you talk?"

"Norris, what is it?"

"I need your help." I was surprised how calm I sounded. "Are you alone?"

"Yes. Tony's down at the pub, as usual, with his old police cronies. We're still not talking."

It was understandable. Bella and I had barely spoken a word to one another either since the incident at the community centre three weeks ago—the night we caught our respective spouses at it.

Well, not exactly at it, but certainly giving it some tonsil exploration and back-rubbing in the shadows of the community centre doorway.

I chauffeured Bella to the community centre because she never bothered learning to drive and Marjorie chauffeured Tony because he was as wide as he was short and struggled to fit behind the steering wheel and reach the pedals.

Marjorie and I happened to be parked alongside one another in a darkened corner of the car park when we saw them canoodling in the doorway with undisguised eagerness. Our eyes locked through the windows of our cars in disbelief.

We both wound down our windows at the same time as our spouses broke away with a tender kiss a moment before spotting our cars parked in the shadows. Bella smoothed down her dress and Tony straightened his duffel coat as they walked towards our cars, but it was too late. We had both seen them.

"I'm in a bit of a fix," I said. "Something's happened to my wife."

A slight pause. "Nothing too trivial I hope?"

For obvious reasons, Marjorie was no fan of Bella either. "Pretty serious, actually. Bella's dead."

"Dead?

"Yes. Dead. She's just eaten a dodgy ham sandwich."

"How extraordinary." Marjorie didn't sound exactly overwrought. "Did she have a heart attack, like Mama Cass?"

"Well—her heart must have stopped." I decided to stop beating around the bush. "Look, the truth is, I think I've killed her. And I need help moving the body. I'm really sorry to bother you with this, Marjorie, but there's no one else."

"You killed your wife?"

"Well … Yes. But not in a brutal way. I didn't hit or stab her or shoot her or anything like that. I just poisoned her a little but with a triple-layered smoked ham sandwich. So, all things considered, at least she died sort of contentedly. It was a good way to go."

Marjorie was quiet for a second or two. "Tony's down at the pub at the moment. I have the Mini."

"So, will you help me move the body?" I might have been asking Marjorie to come over for a cup of tea.

"Move it where?"

"Crag Top," I said. "Can I give you my address?"

The shortest of pauses. "Let me get a pen."

I glanced over at my wife in the armchair. It must have been a trick of the light when I saw her left eyelid flutter.

***

"Are you sure she's dead?" Marjorie peered at Bella from several feet away, clearly not wanting to get too close.

"I've checked her pulse." In the time it took for Marjorie to drive to my house I'd placed my fingertips around Bella's fat wrists and felt nothing but pudgy flesh. I'd also put my ear to her breasts, which was not a pleasurable experience. "She's toast," I concluded.

"So, what now?" Marjorie stepped first left, then right, then circled the armchair to observe Bella from different angles. "What are you going to do with her?"

"Crag Top," I said. "We get her into the car, drive up to the car park, walk her to that sheer bit of cliff and voilà. I also have plenty more stuff in the vial they sent me to make another ham sandwich if you like."

Marjorie smiled. "Tony likes ham sandwiches."

"I've got some a few slices onion and tomato left to go with it."

***

Together, we managed to get Bella to her feet. We were both sweating and we hadn't moved her anywhere yet.

My wife's buttocks were wedged into the armchair, which rose with her as we hauled her upright. The armchair finally plopped back on to the wooden floor on its casters and rolled back a little, which made things slightly easier.

Fortunately, I'd parked the Astra in the garage that adjoined the side of the cottage. There was an access door to the garage from the utility room, so we wouldn't have to shuffle Bella out of the front door to get her into the car.

Neither of us were cut out for heavy lifting but somehow, we managed to shuffle Bella through to the kitchen, through the utility room and into the garage, our slim shoulders supporting Bella's rather prickly and unsavory armpits. We were both gasping for breath by the time I'd unlocked the car.

Marjorie blew out her cheeks, holding onto the roof of the Astra. "We're never going to get her in the front seat."

"Bella always sits in the back. More room to spread out."

I opened the passenger side back door of the Astra as wide as the garage would allow, which wasn't very far, a couple or feet maybe before it hit the tool rack bolted to the wall.

Between us we pushed and squeezed and pushed some more, but there just wasn't enough room to get Bella through the door. Bella was half-way in and half-way out of the car, arms dangling in front of her, chin on chest, standing upright, wide buttocks stuck between the car door and the door frame.

"Gonna have to get the car onto the drive," I said. "I'll open the garage door. You keep watch outside."

We eased Bella out of the car and somehow managed to prop her up against a tool rack, wrapped her arms around the wrench holder in the center, her forehead resting on a shiny new eight-inch adjustable spanner.

I pressed a button on my key fob and the garage door hummed open, exposing the gravel drive and the quiet country lane beyond. The good thing about living in the countryside is there are fewer neighbors to worry about.

I hopped into the driver's seat of the Astra and Marjorie slipped under the rising garage door to make sure the coast was clear. It had just gone nine o'clock. Unlikely that there'd be anyone around.

Marjorie looked about her, gave a thumbs up and I drove the Astra onto the shared gravel driveway.

We quickly returned to the garage, unhooked Bella's arms from around the wrench holder and slipped her prickly armpits around our shoulders, supporting her from either side.

We almost made it to the Astra when we heard the sound of an approaching car.

Marjorie and I froze pretty much at the same time. We would have exchanged glances but there was a significant obstacle between us.

The headlights swung into the shared driveway and I recognized Kanya's Renault Clio immediately. Pebbles sprayed either side of the tires when my Thai neighbor braked hard, capturing Marjorie and Bella and me in two broad white beams.

To Be Continued…

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