Ten Minutes to Kill
fiction by Glynis Scrivens
I was woken by his phone ringing. Who’d be calling at this hour?
Automatically, I rolled over. This wasn’t for me; I could go on sleeping. That’s what Saturday mornings are for, isn’t it?
It rang again.
Maybe it was something important.
Sleepily, I fumbled by his side of the bed. I only managed to glance at the number before it stopped ringing again. There was something familiar about it.
I was closing my eyes again when the phone startled me by emitting two sharp beeps. Someone’s impatient, I thought.
That’s when it dawned on me: where was he? Why wasn’t he lying beside me?
Maybe the answer was on his phone. It could even be Jakob trying to contact me. So, wrong as it seemed, I pushed the button.
Up came the message. Bearing mute testimony to my husband’s infidelity.
Does anyone use words like infidelity anymore? I wondered. Probably too old-fashioned for the young nymph who sent this text to Jakob. She sounded too young to be interested in a 30-year-old man, that’s for sure.
What did Jakob know about “hanging” at night clubs and such? Too much, evidently.
Then I belatedly heard him in the shower, and sat up in alarm. What was I going to do? I was too tired to confront him. I’d need at least two coffees before I could deal with this situation.
But I’d read the message. He’d realize that as soon as he checked his phone.
There was only one option left for me.
So I deleted it. And the two missed calls from the register. Let her wonder if it was all lost in cyberspace.
When he came back into the bedroom, showered and tantalizingly wrapped in a towel, I was doing my best “sound asleep” impersonation.
Maybe I even fooled myself. When I surfaced again at half past eight, I wasn’t sure if I’d dreamt the whole thing. And I could hardly ask him, could I? “Excuse me, darling, but did your bit on the side phone earlier?”
There was no way he’d confess.
There only seemed to be one way to find out for sure if he was being unfaithful: setting a trap.
Maybe I’d seen too many movies? My first idea was to tempt him with the prospect of an empty house. A clichéd situation I’d seen dozens of times in movies. But it did seem like a good way to find out. If he was seeing someone, it’d be too good an opportunity to miss, wouldn’t it? That was my thinking, anyway.
So I phoned my mother. She had a small farm on the outskirts of town and was always begging me to stay a few nights with her. After my father died, she’d never gotten used to being on her own. It usually bothered me. Today it suited my plans.
I was packed and in the car by lunchtime, leaving the door of opportunity open for my rival. My trap was hardly sophisticated.
To find out for sure, I opted on the simple plan of driving back in the wee hours, once I was sure Mum was fast asleep.
For some reason the word “alibi” kept surfacing in my brain. It felt good to have one.
I’d have preferred a murder weapon, though, when two o’clock saw me parked outside my own house, beside a red sports car.
My husband always did have expensive taste. What had I expected his girlfriend to drive, an old Volvo?
Then I saw her silhouette against the window in our bedroom. It matched the car. Sleek and sexy.
I guess at that point instinct took over. Without thinking, I quietly slipped over to the sports car. The silly girl had left it unlocked in her hurry to steal my husband.
More fool her.
This car looked more reliable than him. But like him, it could be made unreliable. Now that was something I was good at. Emptying the brake fluid seemed like a good option. I was tempted to let the air out of the tires, but luckily I didn’t. Why let her know her car had been tampered with? That would defeat the purpose.
Ten minutes later, as I sped along the motorway, my heart felt considerably lighter. Another 30 minutes and I was tucked up in bed in my mother’s spare room, staring at the ceiling, wondering what would happen.
I must’ve dozed off, because the next thing I was aware of was Mum knocking on my door, two cups of tea in hand. She sat in the comfy chair in the corner by my bed, and we talked about old times. About my aunts and cousins, family picnics, Christmas parties—a lovely potpourri of memories and nostalgia.
It was a nice way to usher in the day. Sunday. A day of peace.
Was it peaceful at my home, I wondered?
I drove back late in the afternoon, to arrive at an empty house. The sports car had gone. So had Jakob.
A long hot bubble bath washed off the bad feelings of last night. My guilt disappeared down the drain as well. How dare anyone try to steal my husband? Whatever I’d done had been in self-defense. I was fighting for my lifestyle. A girl has a right to do that.
By dinnertime, I was eaten up by curiosity. Where was he?
A bad hour followed. A few unwelcome possibilities kept playing and replaying in my mind.
What if Jakob had gone for a drive with her? How would I feel if I’d accidentally killed him as well? I hadn’t even thought of that possibility when I drained the brake fluid. Now I couldn’t think of anything else. And the disturbing thing was, I was so hurt by his actions that I didn’t even know how I’d feel if he’d died.
We’d always had fun together. Until she came along, that is.
Now? Could I continue being the wife of someone who strayed? I really wasn’t sure.
So when the phone finally rang, I had mixed feelings. But my heart knew. It leapt at the sound of his voice. I’ll forgive him, I decided. But first he’d have to grovel.
“Can you come down to the police station?” Jakob said. “I’ve been arrested.”
This was definitely not part of my plan. I took my time and stopped on the way for a coffee. A clear head was definitely called for.
He looked terrible. Black around the eyes and gaunt, as though he hadn’t eaten anything all day.
Two burly policemen escorted me around and gave me forms to sign. The younger one had a definite twinkle in his eye. He reminded me of my favorite football star.
“You haven’t asked why your husband’s here,” he said in a surprised tone.
“I’m sure it’s a mistake,” I said. “Jakob’s never done anything wrong.” Well, infidelity is quite legal, so I wasn’t really lying.
“Someone tampered with a sports car,” said the other policeman.
I put on my innocent face. “I hope no one was hurt.” There I was, lying again.
“The driver’s dead, and your husband was the last person to see her alive,” replied Policeman No. 1. “We’re treating this as murder.”
At that, Jakob actually broke down and cried. Without looking at me, he told them he could never dream of hurting his girlfriend—Nicole was her name—that he was in love with her.
My feelings of compassion shriveled at his words. I felt totally betrayed, and in no mood to support him.
“I’m afraid I can’t help you, officers,” I said sweetly. “I was staying at my mother’s place last night.”
And I drove off into the night. Leaving Jakob to his fate.
I was quite sure he’d be released. But I wasn’t going to speed up that process.
Would he be tried for murder? Would they find any other suspects? I didn’t know at the moment, and I didn’t really care.
But it wouldn’t be too hard to find out. Policeman No. 1 had looked very sympathetic as he’d handed me his card. Maybe he’d guessed that Jakob was two-timing me? “Just call me if you need to,” he’d said, his hand resting gently on mine in a protective way.
It was a door opening. A door to the future.
He wasn’t as good-looking as Jakob, but there’d been a sincerity in his voice and manner that would more than compensate for that.
I smiled to myself as I dozed off between fresh sheets. I’d changed them, of course.
As I began to relax, the word “alibi” resurfaced in my brain. Could there be a better alibi than sleeping beside a policeman?
You never knew when you’d need a good alibi.
Glynis Scrivens writes short stories and has been published in Australia, UK, Ireland, South Africa, U.S., India, and Scandinavia. Her book Edit is a Four-Letter Word includes what she has learned in the process (see www.glynisscrivens.com).
This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.