They always tell the truth.
|'It means no worries.' Tom handed the slip of paper back to Rita but crammed the crispy pastry in his mouth.
'Hey!' Rita made a futile snatch at the last crumbs. 'That's my fortune cookie!'
'Have another one.' He rattled the box at her. 'No worries.' He grinned as she took another, cracked it open and gave him the fortune to translate. His eyebrows crawled upwards. 'A,' he rolled his eyes upwards, 'propitious choice is wise.'
'Propitious?' Rita looked at him over her sunglasses. 'Or precipitous?'
'I was trying to give you a flavour of the words.' He rattled the box. 'One more. For luck.' She dipped, chose one to crack it open and offered him the half with the tag of paper hanging out of it. A tongue, ready to tell the future.
'It says,' he re-read it, to be sure, 'the path winds through shade to sun.' The leer he treated her to was genuine. 'A walk in the woods, then.' Had he laid enough bait? They had only met a few days ago and, normally, he would have sweet talked her longer. But he was impatient. The last one had been so much fun. So rewarding. So - satisfying.
Rita was studying him, head on one side. He tried his lop-sided grin. Were his roots showing? His hair grew so quickly and he wanted her to believe that he was a natural blonde. Did his eyebrows match? Was there a dew drop on the end of his nose? If he sniffed, she might misinterpret it. And it would fill his head with her musky scent. She mirrored his smile. Relax! She was in the bag.
'The baker does some amazing filled rolls.' Rita flapped her hand at a shop across the road. 'And we've got the cans of fizz and the bananas from Ling's. We could have a picnic in Lime Quarry Woods.'
'Magic!' It was better than he hoped. Lime Quarry Woods was small, but out of the way. Dense with ash and elder, it had treacherous pits where the underlying chalk had been gouged out to burn for lime. Perfect for a little dalliance and a lot of fun.
When they arrived, to his satisfaction, the car park was deserted. Rita climbed out of the van and stretched, turning a circle to survey the greenery. There were a couple of picnic tables in a clearing but Tom ignored them, stuffing an old blanket on top of their lunch.
'This way.' Rita headed for a narrow track. 'There's a lovely glade, full of bluebells, down there.'
'The bluebell season is over.' This was going to be a doddle. She was up for it, leading him on. Let her. He was lulling her. Let her think she was in control. That made it so much better. The realization, the anger, the delicious contrast of trust and betrayal.
The glade was perfect. Screened by graceful ash trees, elderberry trees filling the gaps and an old pile of logs, harvested at least a season ago. They had not been moved. His stomach fluttered. They had an audience. A silent watcher, unable to scream. A good thing too. Her voice had been a foghorn. Tom turned his back, he had to hide his face from that one and the next one. He spread the blanket.
'Tuna or cheese?' Rita was delving in the shopping bag. 'What's this?' She held up a roll of duct tape, black and shiny.
'So that's where it got to.' He took the tuna roll and casually took the roll of tape, to drop on the blanket. That was lucky. He would not have to scrabble for it later. 'I don't suppose my knife's in there too?' Keep it low key, unimportant.
'Yup.' Gingerly, using only a finger and thumb on the shaft, she held it up. 'That's a bit illegal, innit?' He shrugged. A three inch knife had no real frightener about it but his hunting knife was a different kettle of fish, altogether. It was big, thick bladed, stained black and serrated. He did not keep it razor sharp. Razors cut too easily and did not hurt, so much. Oddly, she was holding it high, her arm at full stretch.
'Put it down before you hurt yourself.' He sighed.
'OK.' Her arm windmilled. His knife arced up and over, cartwheeling, a burnt out catherine wheel. As it thumped into a tussock of rye, Rita bent over, made a two-handed grab on the corner of the blanket and gave it a heave. Tom's feet shot out from under him. He landed flat on his back. All the air whooshed out of his lungs.
'Thomas Keogh, I am arresting you on multiple counts of murder,' men, in uniform, ran out from behind the pile of logs, ' rape and possessing illegal weapons and...' Rough hands turned him over. Handcuffs linked his wrists.
'Your collar, Guv.' Detective Constable Scott grinned. 'Got the nasty bit of work at last. I suppose we'll have to search the woods?'
'Yup.' Her face was stoney. 'Let's hope we find no more.' Especially the remains she had dropped into a flooded pit. It had been such fun.