Amalia swung around when I entered through the French windows. ‘Hello, Albert. What are you doing here?’ she said. ‘I thought you were in the dark room all morning.’
She always called me Albert, even though it wasn’t my name, and I’m not fat. Her expression changed as I raised the antique cast iron planter she bought at an auction the week before. Her eyes followed its arc as I swung it towards her head. I swear she smiled, like I was joking. It connected with her skull making a sound like a hatchet on wood. The lip of the bowl made an axe-like cleft. I noticed that before the blood flooded out. She collapsed vertically without a sound. Reminded me of the 9/11 towers – sans dust.
The bone and greyish jelly on the urn told me I didn’t need to hit her again. Her expression was blank, like she was engrossed in her favourite TV soap, except she was ruining our Persian carpet with blood pumping from the hole in her head.
I dropped the urn and checked in the mirror for blood spatter on my clothes. I had some on my pink Lacoste polo. I had two, bought them in the sales last winter. I had two of everything I was wearing. Amalia laughed at me when I showed her, she said I was in danger of becoming a uniform. I said I intended to buy two of everything in future. She said it was a stupid waste of money and forbade it.
Up in our bedroom, I changed into my the duplicate garments and packed the others into one of Amalia’s Harrods bags. I pulled out all the drawers on her dresser and emptied her jewellery case, making sure a few pieces fell on the carpet. I raided the wardrobes scattering our clothes all over the floor. I threw my collection of cufflinks and tie pins over my shoulder.
Back in the lounge, I went out to the garden and locked the French windows. I smashed the window pane near the handle, put my hand through, unlocked the door from the inside, leaving the key in the lock and pushed it open. By now the Persian carpet had soaked up most of Amalia’s blood. I dropped one of her diamond earrings on the threshold, knocked over a couple of pot plants on the terrace and made a trail with more pieces from her jewellery box towards the side entrance – expensive breadcrumbs. I opened the gate and threw my Rolex Datejust on the path. Shit, that really hurt.
I cut across the lawn and hopped over the hedge. After that it was just a walk through the woodlands to the entrance leading to my dark room. I hid the Harrods bag and entered the dark room. I checked the time – another thirty minutes before I finished the developing session I told my assistants I was doing. I congratulated myself. Six months of planning since I found the blocked off entrance to a cellar under the dark room floor which led to a forgotten trap door in the ruined church: perfect.
I met Amalia when I worked for a struggling advertising agency. She flirted, I reciprocated. She’d recently divorced, scoring a very large settlement. Amalia was a smart operator. It was her idea to use the money to finance our own studio. Photography was my job, she found clients. When the agency finally went tits-up, we were the only studio in the area. The contracts rolled in; so did the money. Soon we took on staff and needed bigger premises. We found the perfect place, a rundown Georgian ex-vicarage adjoining an abandoned church. We rented it for a song. A short walk away, we bought a house. Amalia used it for her HQ, rather than get distracted by visitors to the studio.
I’ve never considered myself a womaniser. People have told me I’m attractive, but I never bought that. When I look in the mirror an ordinary Joe looks back, certainly not Brad Pitt, but some women react to me. I’ve always had trouble resisting the chemistry. Usually it comes to nothing, a flirtation. Sometimes it goes further. Always a sucker for a pretty face . . . weak I suppose.
We employed Julie, a photography student, to assist with the more mundane work: weddings and stuff. She lacked experience so I took her on a calendar shoot around Ullswater. Lake District weather being what it is, we spent a lot of time parked up waiting out heavy showers. The windows on the SUV steamed up . . . . She had this smile.
The affair lasted two months. Amalia came to the studio unexpectedly one afternoon and heard us in the dark room. She fired Julie on-the-spot. After that all my assistants were male, she even refused to hire gays. I thought that was pushing it.
Amalia was very understanding, she took me out to dinner.
‘You have no idea how bloody hard I worked to pin something on that old fool,’ she explained. ‘Every penny of the settlement went into our business. My work has made us worth a million and we’re growing.’ She leant across the table and kissed my cheek. ‘Albert, my darling, if you think I’m going to divorce you for a measly half-million, forget it.’ She sat back and raised her glass of ’95 Medoc and smiled. ‘Besides, if you do it again you won’t get a red-cent.’
That was four years ago. Now the business is worth a fortune. Amalia was too close to finding out about Sarina and there was no way I intended losing my share of seven-million. Sure, it’s tough on Amalia, but nobody’s going to break in and rob a penniless model are they?