Home Stories Pillow Talk by Fred Russell

Pillow Talk by Fred Russell


Fred Russell tells of a chambermaid with a murderously unconventional approach to love.

The chambermaid was a sturdy girl but very pretty. Had she been shorter he might have thought of her as squat or stout but she was just the right height to bear her weight. He’d stayed at the hotel a couple of times before but had never noticed her. Maybe she’d been working on a different floor. It seemed to him that she was leaning over the bed very provocatively, showing him the backs of her sumptuous thighs. Raymond wasn’t bashful. “What I wouldn’t give to make love to you,” he said.

“What would you give?” she said.

Without saying a word, Raymond took out his wallet, extracted a hundred-dollar bill, and laid it on the night table, and without saying a word the girl began to undress. Then she stood before him naked. Her powerful body was magnificent. He lay her down on the bed and ran his hands over her belly and her breasts.

“I’m not a whore,” she said. “You can kiss me too,” so he did, and when he was finished he said, “What would happen if we fell in love?”

“I wouldn’t charge you,” she replied.

He laughed, glad to see that she had a sense of humor, but he was already thinking of her as a mother. She could easily bear five or six children, which was what he wanted. She would be very efficient in her domestic mode. She certainly knew how to make a bed. He imagined her with short hair and short skirts. She wasn’t refined but she wasn’t common either. She spoke grammatically and in a neutral accent.

“What’s your name?” he said.

“Anabelle,” she replied.

“Would you like to have dinner with me?”



“All right,” she said. “I finish at five.”

“Where should we meet?”

“Out front.”

“At five?”

“Make it five-thirty.”

He was there a little early. It wasn’t the first time he’d slept with the help, but he’d never thought of falling in love with one of them. It was definitely time to settle down, however. He was thirty-seven. Anabelle looked to be around twenty-three or twenty-four. She’d expect to be taken care of. He must have seemed like a kind of windfall to her, but he could imagine that she would be devoted. Raymond had money. He owned a successful business and had a brother who ran it very efficiently for him, so he was free to move around a lot. Some of the movement was connected with the business. The rest was to have a good time. He looked at his watch. She appeared at just a little after 5:30, in high heels and a leather miniskirt. Now she did look like a whore; certainly not like a chambermaid.

“How beautiful you are,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied.

“You could be in the movies,” he said.

“I can’t act.”

“Any place special you’d like to go?”

“You decide.”

She had quite an appetite. He enjoyed watching her eat. He liked women who ate with gusto. Her gusto had carried over into her lovemaking, and her body was overwhelming with its big breasts and strong thighs. She knew how to present herself to a man in bed, with just the right measure of allure and abandon, making sure he’d want to come back for more. Maybe she was a whore after all.

“Tell me about yourself,” he said when they were on their dessert, knowing it sounded a little movie-ish and concerned that she might think he didn’t respect her to allow himself to be so peremptory and patronizing and, what was worse, banal.

“What do you want to know?” she said.


So she told him the story of her life, or a version of it, which was not very interesting: school and a job, a lover or two, brothers and sisters, parents still living. She was from Austria or Switzerland. It wasn’t clear to him which and it wasn’t important enough to clarify. What interested him was why she had taken his money if, as she said, she wasn’t a whore; but he hesitated to ask her.

“And you?” she said.

His story was more interesting, because he was rich. Rich people always knew how to make the accumulation of wealth sound interesting, because they thought of themselves as warrior-heroes. She nodded a few times. Maybe she just wanted to know how much he was worth.

After the meal he asked her if she would like to come back to the room with him.

“For another hundred?”

He laughed again and slid two hundred-dollar bills across the table. She smiled and put them in her leather bag.

“The extra hundred is for your company,” he said. “Let’s take a walk.”

“Sure. You’re my only client.”

They walked around the town for an hour. People stopped and stared at her. He was convinced that it wasn’t because they recognized her but because of how attractive she was. Every time he turned to look at her, a little smile formed on her lips. He was convinced that it was because she enjoyed being looked at.

“Do you know what I’m thinking about now?” he asked her.

“Making love to me?”

“Making love to you every night. Giving you things.”

“You want me to be your mistress?”

“More than that.”

“So fast?”

“I don’t think I’ll find anyone else as desirable as you.”

“What about romance?”

“Didn’t you like the restaurant?”

“Bed and breakfast?”

“Kids. As many as you want. I want a lot.”

It was definitely time for negotiations. In principle, he was prepared to give her anything she wanted. But what he wanted in return was love, in addition to the children.

“I like you but I don’t know you,” she said.

“But could you see it happening?”

“Maybe. And if it didn’t?

“You’d get to keep the deposit.”

“Which is?”

“An apartment, a nice little bank account, et cetera, et cetera. A very nice little package.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Want to try?”


They ended up in bed of course, and she even stayed the night, so in the morning he did in fact take her to breakfast. She wore a plain cotton dress and looked more appealing in it than in her leather miniskirt, and certainly more domestic. This is what it would be like, he thought: bed and breakfast, and dinner as well, and then the kids and the house in the country. Anabelle. Even her name was just right. In any case, she seemed to be enjoying herself, which was a good sign, unless it was just the money.

They met again for dinner and then he took her to a show and back to the hotel. “Where do you live?” he asked her in the morning.

“On the other side of town, in a rooming house.”

“A seedy one?”

“No, it’s all right. Maybe a little expensive even.”

“Can you manage it?”

“All these hundreds help.”

“Can I put you up somewhere else?”

“Then I really would be your mistress.”

“Until you decide.”

“I don’t know.”

They left it at that. He slept with her every night for a week and decided to stay another week instead of returning home as he had planned. So far he’d counted out over a thousand dollars for her. It made him laugh, because there was an element of comedy in his pursuit of a chambermaid who may or may not be a whore. But he enjoyed her company and desired her. She still took care of his room. It was a simple matter of putting on her uniform when she got out of his bed and getting right down to work. At five she left for the rooming house. At seven she met him for dinner and he had her until the next morning. She also had Sunday off so he offered to take her skiing but she didn’t know how and didn’t feel like learning so they got into his rented car and drove into the country with a hamper full of food, but it turned out to be too cold and windy for a picnic so they ended up staying overnight in a lodge where they served hot toddy in a cozy lounge with a roaring fire in the fireplace. There were a few elderly people in the room so they kept to themselves, though she again got a few looks despite being modestly dressed. He felt that they were a couple now and was reluctant to see things end. He thought they should be together always and couldn’t see why she shouldn’t think so too, because it seemed to him that just about anything was better than making beds and turning tricks.

“You’re a tough nut to crack,” he said to her on the way back to the hotel.


“I made you an offer. Soon I’ll be gone. What will you have then?”

She didn’t reply.

“Do I repel you?” he said.

“Not at all,” she said.

“Then what is it?”

“I have a secret.”



“What is it?”

“I’m married.”

“Is that a fact?”

“Yes, I’m married.”

“Where is he?”

“We’re separated.”


“He won’t give me a divorce.”

“I see.”

“So I’m not available.”

“But you’re here.”

“But I’m chained to him.”

“I see.”

“I wish he was dead.”

She sobbed. Raymond was moved. “Could you love me?” he asked her.

“Maybe,” she replied.

It didn’t take much imagination to see that the easiest way to unchain Anabelle was to eliminate the husband. Raymond had removed many obstacles in the course of his business career, most often with money, occasionally through intimidation and once or twice using plain and simple force. He’d even been written about in that vein in a few magazine profiles. People tended to be wary of him.

“Should I talk to him?”

“It won’t help. It would probably make things worse. And he’s a tough customer. He beat me more than once.”

“There are other ways.”

“Like what?”

“You don’t want to know.”

But it seemed she did know, and looked to be thinking it over. In the end she said, “Would you really?”

He nodded and said, “I’d do just about anything to have you.” Then they found themselves kissing romantically rather than lustfully for what might have been the first time, and she said, “All right.”

Raymond himself was a little surprised at how far he was willing to go to win the hand or heart of a chambermaid from Switzerland or Austria who was pretty much a stranger to him and as far as he knew excelled only at making beds and making love. And yet he was beguiled. You always start out as strangers, he thought, so why not? He was still giving her money but no longer felt that he was buying her. Sometimes he got her gifts too.

The husband lived in a neighboring town. Raymond wanted to have a look at him so he drove there in the middle of the week and found him where Anabelle said he would be, on a building site with a hard hat on his head and a clipboard in his hand. He was sturdy too, not too tall but well built and definitely not the type you’d think to slug it out with, as Anabelle had implied. Raymond carried a gun and thought things over for a few long moments, weighing the pros and cons. Who would know? Who would even suspect it? All he had to do was stay out of sight and catch him alone. It would sound like a car backfiring in the night.

When he got back he felt inclined to talk the whole thing over with Anabelle, but then she would become an accomplice, at least in theory, and who could predict how things might play out. He certainly wouldn’t have wished to implicate her, though it would have been far worse if he had misread her, so he decided to let her take the lead and once he was sure, act accordingly.

It didn’t take long. A few nights later she said, “Let’s do it.”

Raymond, however, had to be really sure. “Set you free?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Any way it takes?”


“And you wouldn’t be angry with me if I went to extremes?”


“And then we’d lay low and in a year or so we’d get together for good?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I understand.”

Now it was up to him. He knew he had to do it quickly, while he was fired up and so as not to make Anabelle wonder if he was having second thoughts or lacked resolve. Two days later he drove back to the neighboring town wearing an outfit that made him look like an ordinary workman and parked out of sight. Then, from a vantage point, he watched the building crew knock it off for the day just as the light began to fade from the sky. Anabelle’s husband lived in a little house on a quiet street. No lights were on in the windows until the husband stepped inside. Raymond drove around a little to get the lay of the land and then rang the doorbell. When the door opened he shot him once in the heart and immediately ran around to the back, skirted a hedge and reached another quiet street where he had parked the car. He sat in the driver’s seat for a minute or two without moving. The street remained deserted so he pulled out and drove back to the hotel. When he found Anabelle, he said, “It’s done.” She let out an involuntary squeal and embraced him. Then they went to bed.

He checked out of the hotel three days later. News of the murder had made very little impression around the hotel but the police naturally questioned Anabelle. It turned out that she did know how to act after all. Raymond understood that it might have been a mistake not to make it look like a robbery. They would have found him just inside his door with the neat bullet hole in his chest, so it might have been understood to be what was generally called a hit. No doubt the police were looking for enemies, debts, affairs, so at least for the time being the investigation would focus on the victim in the absence of a real suspect. Anabelle was in the clear, and Raymond was on his way home.

As for the deposit, that would have to wait, for obvious reasons. In a way Raymond was relieved. Now that they were apart he actually found that he desired her less. It was her physical presence that exercised the most powerful attraction. To be on the safe side, they were not going to communicate for the entire year and then meet in Paris, where he kept an apartment. It would become her apartment and then they would decide where to live permanently. That was the plan.

However, Raymond was restless. He liked to see things resolved. That was how he conducted his business and that was how he conducted his life, so four months later he called the hotel, representing himself as a former guest, and asked to speak to her, which he planned to do in a very discreet and roundabout way, maybe even arranging a rendezvous, but the desk clerk told him that she was no longer employed there.

“Do you have an address or phone number?” Raymond asked him.

“No, but she told us she was engaged to be married.”

“Really?” Raymond said. He was thinking very fast. If she had meant that the engagement was to him, she certainly would have made sure he could find her, or tried to find him. Therefore he had to conclude that it was not him, or that she’d just come up with an excuse to leave her job. He also wondered if he hadn’t been set up by a very clever girl who, as it had turned out, knew how to act very well. He therefore determined to find her.

He had always been good at this kind of thing and enjoyed the challenge. He immediately checked back into the hotel. Then he talked to a few of the other chambermaids, telling them he’d offered her a job and was trying to find her. In this way he quickly learned that there was indeed another man. That made his blood boil but he didn’t give the game away. One of the chambermaids mentioned that the boyfriend was also from a nearby town and that she thought his name was Calvin. He drove there the next day.

It wasn’t a very large town. It was more like a village, which simplified matters. He wasn’t sure he’d find her there but then again she might have permitted herself to be a little reckless on the assumption that he wouldn’t come around until the year was up. He just sat in his car off the village square, waiting. He saw her on the second day.

She was alone. First she went into a minimarket and came out with what must have been a bag of groceries. Then she went into a luncheonette and came out with a bag that might have contained her lunch, or her boyfriend’s. She was dressed very modestly and fit in very well. No one would have stared at her. He followed her on foot. She ended up at another little house, not far away, with a car parked outside. Raymond found a bench in a nearby park from which he could just see the front of the house. Late in the afternoon she came out with a man and they drove off. That gave him some time to think. He was more inclined now than ever to believe that he had been set up. However, on the basis of their initial encounters in the hotel there was no way that she could have pegged him as a potential murderer. She, or she and the boyfriend, would have had to know quite a lot about him beforehand. He speculated about where either of them might have come across him or his name and how they might have guessed correctly that he was capable of murder. It was true that he had an explosive temper, which many people had noted, and they might even have read about him and recognized his name when he showed up on her floor in the hotel, but that didn’t make him a killer. He was in fact also a calculating type, which was almost a contradiction in terms, unless he made a profession of it, the killing that is, which wasn’t the case. He knew how to explain himself, but no one else could have and certainly could not have known him as well as he knew himself, unless they were extraordinarily perceptive, even more perceptive than Raymond, and that was not what he had understood Anabelle to be, though she did seem to be more intelligent than he had at first believed.

He had rented another car, so he parked it down the street and waited. They came back three hours later, time enough for dinner and a movie, he presumed. It would have been exceedingly indiscreet for them to have married so soon after the murder, so he assumed they were just living together for the time being. He knew what he should or might do and there would certainly be a measure of irony in it; he was sorely tempted, but he wanted to think things over a little more. Unfortunately, via the chambermaids, there was now a link between himself and Anabelle, not to mention Calvin the boyfriend, so under any circumstances he would have to be very careful. What he wanted more than anything at the moment was to have a little talk with Anabelle and find out exactly what she was up to. Therefore he decided to intercept her on her next shopping trip and thrash things out.

The next shopping trip came two days later. This time he walked up to her and said, “What a surprise.”

She instantly grew pale, which was itself a giveaway, but all she said was, “Raymond!”

“Let’s have a cup of coffee,” he said.

Apparently she didn’t need more than a minute to work out a convincing story, the time it took for them to be seated in the café. Raymond led with his chin. “Who’s the fella?” he asked her.

It was probably just the question she wanted him to ask, because she said immediately, “I thought you weren’t coming back. I thought you left me. Calvin just happened. I was lonely, and afraid. I panicked.”

“We made up to wait a year.”

“I couldn’t help it. I panicked.”

“I was told you’re engaged.”

“No, that isn’t true. I told that to people so they wouldn’t think twice about my quitting.”

“So he’s what? A boyfriend?”

“No. He doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“But you’re living with him.”

“That doesn’t mean a thing.”



He was not convinced that she wasn’t lying. “Would you like me to eliminate him too then?”

That got a physical reaction, but she was fast on her feet. “Two would be too much. People would get suspicious.”

“Of you. Not of me.”

“But I know the truth.”

“Is that a threat?”

Now she drew herself up. “Under the circumstances,” she said. “I think you should go away and not come back.”

“You mean forget about you.”

“Yes. And I promise to forget about you.”

“All right,” Raymond said.

This may or may not have surprised her. He threw a few dollars down on the table and left with a little smile that could be taken any way she liked.

Anabelle walked back to the house and told her boyfriend that the man who had killed her husband had threatened her, and him too.

“What do you want to do?” he asked her.

“Kill him, before he kills us.”

This gave Calvin pause. It was apparently more than he had bargained for. She had told him that she’d had a one-night stand with this Raymond some time back and he had gotten the wrong idea. “I think he’s a little crazy,” she said. “Who in his right mind acts so impulsively?”

It would not have occurred to her that she might have been just a little crazy too.

“And now you want me to kill him?”

“Do you have a better idea?”

“Why not turn him in?”

“I’d end up implicating myself. I’d tell my story and he’d tell his and both of us would become suspects. This way no one can link him to me.”

“I’ve never killed anyone.”

“I’ll help you,” Anabelle said.

He didn’t own a gun so she told him how to get one. Calvin also worked in construction, was in fact a friend of the deceased husband. That was how everything had started, in a torrid love affair, though it had never occurred to Anabelle to put Calvin up to murdering her husband. She had known that Raymond stayed occasionally at the hotel and she knew his reputation after reading the profiles in the magazines. It hadn’t taken her very long to understand that she had read him correctly. She too had been looking for love and in Calvin she believed she had finally found the man who might give it to her.

“Now what?” Calvin said.

“We’ll see if he comes back. If he does, it means that he’s after one or both of us.”

A month went by and there was no sign of him. Anabelle was edgy. She made discreet inquiries at the nearby hotels to see if he’d shown up. She looked around very carefully when she went out shopping. It was a co-worker who came by to tell her that Calvin had been killed on the building site, supposedly slipping and falling from high above the ground. All she could think of was to run, not even thinking to take the gun.

Raymond of course found her. He just hung around and kept his eyes open. When she arrived in the city to stay with her sister, he was right behind her. The sister lived in a high-rise apartment house with a husband and two children.

He knew he should walk away, as he had pretty much ruined any chance he might have had to win her in any conventional way. Threatening to kill anyone she got close to was bound to backfire at some point. He was in a quandary. He even considered killing her, which would put an end to the entire affair and allow him to get on with his life. But now that he had seemingly lost her, he wanted her even more. He had become obsessed with possessing her.

He phoned her after another week, when the sister and her family were out of the house. “I’m not going away,” he said. “Let’s talk.”

“Did you kill Calvin?”

“Of course not. I read the paper. He fell.”

“Not if you pushed him.”

“How would I do that? Anyway, I think we should talk.”

“Go ahead, talk.”

“Not on the phone.”

“Why not? Do you think I’m taping you?”

“I’m not the one who has anything to hide. You are, remember?”

She agreed to meet him in a café. He ordered coffee and a piece of chocolate cake, and made very sure she wasn’t wired. “This is good,” he said. “Want some?”

“No thanks.”

She stuck to her coffee. She was wearing a simple dress and no makeup. Her eyes looked a little bloodshot. She must have been having trouble sleeping. She might also have lost a few pounds.

“Come live with me,” he said. “You’ll have everything you want.”

“Until you kill me too.”

“I’d never do that. I want you to be the mother of my children. And I’ll love you.”

“You’re a murderer.”

“So are you.”

That shut her up quickly enough. She probably hadn’t thought of it that way. Finally she said, “There’s a big difference.”

“Yes, you’re more guilty than I am, because in effect you hired me.”

“I did not.”

“Whether I was paid or not, I did something you wanted me to do.”

More people came in. They weren’t alone anymore so they went outside and sat down on a bench in a nearby park. “We’ll go to Paris. We’ll stay in my apartment, and you’ll have a lot of money.”

“How much?”

“Say a hundred thousand dollars, anywhere you want me to put it.”

“And a house?”

“I’ll put the Paris apartment in your name.”

“And then what?”

“We’ll get married.”

“And when you’re tired of me?”

“I won’t be, but in any case you’ll have the down payment.”

“I need more.”

“Like what?”

“A confession.”

He laughed.

“I’ll confess too. We’ll each have a copy. That’s fair.”

“Write out your confession,” he said “I want to see what it looks like.”

She showed it to him the next day, typed up and unsigned of course, and held up in both her hands as he read it. She was of course hedging, leaving room to argue that she had misunderstood him, or that he had misunderstood her. It even occurred to him that she might argue that she had written it with a gun to her head after he had given her his as a gesture of good faith.

“It will have to be better than this,” he said. As he had anticipated just this eventuality he had his own version ready together with a draft of his own confession. The two documents pretty much made them equal partners, though he refrained from suggesting that it was she who had seduced him for just the purpose of murdering her husband. “You wanted him dead,” he said in the end. “That’s why you hooked up with me.”

“I’m not signing that,” she said.

“Why not? It gives each of us something over the other and guarantees that we won’t turn each other in. Then we can put this behind us and live the lives we were meant to live.”


“Of course. The moment you stop thinking of me as a murderer and yourself as innocent, and acknowledge that you’re as guilty as I am, you’ll be able to think of me as a great catch that will change your whole life.”

“And have a lot of children?”


“How many is a lot?”

“I’d be happy with five or six.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“I’ll settle for less.”


“All right.”

“What kind of house will we have?”

“Fourteen rooms on a hundred acres in the south of France.”

“Say you love me.”

“I love you.”

“All right.”

They signed their confessions and exchanged them, to be put away for safekeeping. She even smiled, so he assumed that she’d had a real change of heart, however cold her heart might have been, and who could blame her? She would of course have known that the reciprocal confessions were not foolproof, for either of them, for if one got caught, he or she could give the police the other’s confession out of simple spite or to get a better deal with the prosecutor. The only guarantee was for neither of them to get caught and for them to remain on good terms.

The next morning they traveled to Paris, where he signed over his apartment to her and deposited one hundred thousand dollars in a Swiss account under her name. Then he moved in with her.

It took her a while to warm up to him again. The first time around she had enjoyed the sex enormously. She was used to having sex with strangers and enjoying it though it hadn’t really gotten her anywhere until now. She understood that he was genuinely in love with her and would treat her as a cherished wife. She also understood that his primary interest in her was as a sleeping partner as opposed to a conversation partner. At breakfast she told him in which shops she would be spending his money and in the evening they had dinner out and saw a show or a movie. He did tell her quite a lot about his business, being very proud of its success. She looked forward to their lovemaking, because he was very good at it and always satisfied her, but otherwise did not feel any particular affection toward him. It was as if he was transformed in bed from a near-stranger to a yearned-for lover, and since she hardly saw him during the day, that was more than enough.

They stayed in Paris through the winter. Occasionally he went away on a short business trip and occasionally she talked to her sister on the phone. He had introduced her to no one in Paris so she assumed that his social connections were elsewhere. She understood that his brother ran the business but there was no question of meeting him for the time being. She had spoken to her parents just once in the last year and that was plenty from her point of view.

At the end of the winter he took her to his estate. “We can get married next month,” he said. “Is that all right?”

“Sure,” she replied. They were fairly isolated and no one came to the house except service people. For the house itself he had a staff of six, including a cook. Fortunately he put a car at her disposal so she was able to go wherever she liked during the day, which meant, essentially, more shopping. She now had an enormous wardrobe and a great deal of expensive jewelry. When that wasn’t enough to cheer her up, she looked at her bank statement. She expected that at a certain point the novelty of taking her in the night would wear off for him and he might seek greener pastures. That didn’t trouble her at all. What did trouble her was the thought that he might seek a more extreme solution. But then again she had his confession.

In any case, for the time being his ardor hadn’t diminished. If anything, it had grown stronger, accompanied by extravagant language, sometimes coarse, sometimes in French or Italian. She enjoyed his amatory style, including the catalogue of her allures that he was always reciting as he lay on top of her, pertaining to her mouth, her belly, her breasts, her thighs, and more. He sounded a little drunk, but only with love, even if it was two parts lust, so for the time being she couldn’t complain.

However, she also wished to know a little more about him, so she got friendly with the cook, who had apparently been with him for a great many years. The estate was his summer home. She and her husband, the gardener, virtually managed it when he wasn’t there and lived in a cottage on the property. The rest of the help was temporary. The wedding was a week away now. “I’ll bet he’s had plenty of girls,” she said to the cook.

“Now now,” the cook said. “You’re his one true love as I understand it.”

“I just feel a little unsure of myself,” Anabelle said. “He’s such an important man and I’m a little nobody.”

“Now now,” the cook said. “He speaks very highly of you. We have the strictest instructions to make you feel at home.”

It didn’t take much to bring out the maternal instincts in the cook. She had two grown children of her own, very well provided for thanks to the generosity of Master Raymond. Before long she was telling Anabelle everything she wished to know, patting her arm occasionally to reassure her. Anabelle took it all in, elaborating new configurations in her mind. What the cook couldn’t tell her was how French inheritance law worked, but that was easy enough to ascertain and she was pleasantly surprised to discover that on his death she would inherit his entire estate in the absence of children and parents, which was the case, as she understood it.

The marriage ceremony took place in the town hall with the brother and his wife as witnesses, Afterwards the four of them had dinner in the private room of a restaurant given three stars by Michelin. The brother and his wife were actually very pleasant people. They had three young children. The factory was in the north but the family was originally from Italy, though the two brothers had been born in Paris. The business, however, belonged entirely to Raymond, started up from scratch.

On the way home, Raymond said, “We’re letting bygones be bygones, aren’t we?”

“Of course,” Anabelle replied.

“All right then.”

He was doubly ardent in bed, and even more extravagant in praise of her physical attributes. Then he apologized for having murdered her boyfriend, Calvin.

“I suspected as much.”

“Tell me you’re not sorry.”

“I’m not sorry.”


“Yes. At first I was, but I agree that it’s turned out for the best.”

“Then we can love each other and have a real life.”

“Yes, of course.”

“I promise to make you happy.”

“I know.”

“Say you love me.”

“I love you.”

“Say it again.”

“I love you.”

“All right then.”

Did she love him? She really couldn’t say. She had never really loved anyone before. All she could say for certain was that she wanted him in bed. As for the rest, he was pleasant enough. She tried to be affectionate outside bedroom hours so that he wouldn’t begin to wonder about her. She also thought casually about poisoning him. The idea just came into her head. That was how her mind worked. More than once people had accused her of being cold-hearted. She had believed that Calvin might give her what she needed but had to admit that Raymond was the better catch. Calvin, in any case, was dead and she found that she barely missed him.

She read up on the subject of poisons, searching for one that would make the death look like a heart attack without leaving traces of its own, but she quickly realized that she was ill-equipped for such an exacting task. Finding a way to kill her husband without arousing suspicion was a pleasant diversion that helped fill the hours when she wasn’t out shopping, so she found that she had a pretty full day and always looked forward to their big dinners, evenings out and the night in bed. However, at a certain point, she also remembered that he had her confession, just as she had his, and in the event of his untimely death it would undoubtedly fall into whatever hands he had designated for such an eventuality, most likely his brother, but perhaps his solicitor. Therefore she also had to discover where he was keeping it. It also occurred to her that she might hire someone to murder him. But that would make her even more vulnerable, especially if he was caught, so she had to make sure he wouldn’t be. The best way to do that was to make it look like an accident. She also had to make sure the assassin wouldn’t blackmail her. That was a little trickier. The best way to do that was to become his lover.

At first, these were just hypothetical thoughts, but the more she thought about it the more she liked the idea. She decided to give the project a year. In the meanwhile, she looked around at leisure for a suitable candidate, not a criminal of course but someone who would be lured by the prospect of possessing her. Her shopping trips were a perfect cover for finding the right man, or of being found by him. It took three months, in the course of which time she had interviewed quite a few candidates without their realizing that they were being interviewed. She had a talent for sizing up men, other than her first husband. The one she chose was a laborer with a pleasant air, not of course refined but also not rough, someone who would easily fall in love with her and remain loyal. After a few sessions in a hotel bed, she began to weave an extremely involved story about her second marriage. She told him in effect that after they had married she began to suspect that her second husband had murdered her first husband. He was obsessed with her, she told him, and she was afraid he would eventually kill her too.

“If only he’d have an accident,” she said. “We could be together always. We could have a perfect life. And money would never be a problem. He’s loaded.”

“What kind of an accident?” her lover said.

“Do you know anything about cars?”

“You’ve seen too many movies.”

“Like the brakes.”

“That wouldn’t work. People don’t discover that something is wrong with their brakes just when they’re about to have a fatal accident. They discover it when they’re backing out of their driveway.”

“Then what?”

“Maybe during a robbery. A break-in.”


“At your house.”

“Could you do it?”

“And after?”

“We’d be together.”

They talked about this for a while, very specifically. He might even tie her up and take some of her jewelry. He would shoot Raymond after what would be made to look like a struggle. No one else would be in the house, as the cook and her husband, the gardener, would be asleep in their cottage and the rest of the staff would have gone home. They would have to come up with a way to have her call the police while remaining bound so that the police would find her that way and never suspect that she was involved.

“There’s an intercom connected to the cook’s cottage. I could get to it tied to the chair and find a way to make the connection.”

“There you go,” her lover said.

This was just a preliminary discussion. Conceivably they’d come up with a better plan. They had time. In the meanwhile she enjoyed him in bed, particularly when Raymond was away on business. She also gave him a few thousand dollars in cash to make sure he stayed interested. By this time she knew that Raymond kept her confession in a safe in the house. She would therefore have to get hold of the combination.

Raymond got back after a two-week trip and was hungry for her. As far as she could tell he was entirely faithful to her. She tried to perform convincingly in bed, which was not really difficult as long as she was enjoying the sex, which she was. In any case, they couldn’t put their plan into operation until she had her confession in her hands. It happened by accident when he forgot to close the safe after being called away on urgent business and she had come down to his office looking for him – and there it was. Since she didn’t wish to have him discover that it was gone, she decided that they should act that same night. The open safe was a perfect and convincing prop. That was how the police would find it, wide open and all but empty. She explained all this to her lover and had him hide in the office, waiting for her husband to return and remember that he’d neglected to close the safe.

Raymond got back late at night and went straight to his office. That was where the struggle took place. Anabelle waited upstairs and when she heard the shot and then the footsteps on the stairs she held her breath, not knowing who was coming. It was Pierre, the lover, and he even had some blood on his sleeve.

“He’s dead,” Pierre said.

“Good work,” Anabelle said, adding a kiss. “Now tie me up, near the kitchen.”

When he was gone, she worked her way to the intercom and cried out for help. The cook and her husband came running, then the police arrived. Anabelle allowed herself to be smothered in the cook’s arms, sobbing all the while. The struggle looked to have been violent, but actually Pierre had dispatched her husband instantly with a blow to his head from behind before shooting him. The rest was stage management.

The police asked Anabelle the obvious questions when they returned to the house the next day and Anabelle gave the correct answers. It was a robbery plain and simple, as far as the police were concerned. Apparently no one was aware that she had been married before with the same result, other than Pierre. She now possessed a small fortune as well as a magnificent house. She also discovered that she was pregnant, though she had no idea by whom, so she promptly got an abortion to keep things simple, though she did in fact want a child, or maybe two.

The plan for Pierre was to lay low for a year and then for them to get married. That, at least, was what Pierre believed. In the meanwhile, Anabelle played at being the bereaved widow while Raymond’s brother continued to manage the factory and Raymond’s sister-in-law gave her a shoulder to lean on. Anabelle even enjoyed their children, thinking of herself as an aunt. She was, however, in the prime of life and needed a man, so after another few months she found one on another of her shopping trips. This one was nearly a carbon copy of the first, that is, of Pierre, so the question was really why she required him if she already had the original. The answer that immediately presented itself to her was that Pierre had something over her. It did, however, occur to her that his replacement would too if she used him to eliminate Pierre. This was a quandary. She solved it impulsively. She couldn’t help herself.

The new lover was not entirely aware of her circumstances, other than surmising that she was wealthy. Anabelle allowed him to believe that she was married to Pierre but had left him and was now seeking a divorce, which he refused to give her. They cohabited in hotel rooms, which she gave him the cash to pay for while keeping out of sight. After three months she broached the subject of eliminating Pierre. Antoine was amenable. What is more, he owned a gun, he said, so she gave him Pierre’s address and waited. She didn’t hear from him for the next two months and got a little worried, as she didn’t know how to contact him. Then he showed up at the big house one night with Pierre at his side. She looked at one and then at the other. They were both smiling.

“We had a little talk,” Antoine said.

But Anabelle was not easily flustered. “And?”

“And I know everything,” Antoine said.


“We ought to put a bullet through your head.”

“But you won’t.”

“That’s right.”


“Because you have a lot of money. Your husband’s money.”


“We’ll take a third of it each.”

“All right.”

“We know what he was worth. You’ll have to sell the business and the estate too.”

“All right.”

“And no tricks, or you’ll be sitting in prison for the rest of your life.”

She refrained from pointing out that Pierre would also be sitting in prison for the rest of his life and Antoine would get a good few years as well. They might have had some contingency plan but she was confident that it wasn’t as good as hers, which she had devised while chatting with them.

“It will take a while to sell everything.”

“That’s all right,” Pierre said, sounding a little peeved, as he was after all her intended victim. “We’ll take whatever cash you have in the meanwhile. Let’s see your bank statements. Also your broker’s statements.”

They accompanied her to Raymond’s office, assuming, she surmised, that all of the statements would be in the same place. In fact they were, and Anabelle handed them over without batting an eye. The total came to a little over four million francs or seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

“Very nice,” Antoine said. “We’ll start with this.”

“It will take a few days to put it together.”

“That’s all right. We’ll be watching you.”

The next morning Anabelle drove into town and went straight to the police, telling them with great sobs that her husband’s murderers were blackmailing her, threatening to tell the police that she had hired them.

“But then they’d be implicating themselves,” the police detective said.

“They must have been bluffing then. They must have thought I’d panic.”

“Why should you panic if you’re innocent?”

“Because I was afraid they could somehow implicate me.”

“Could they?”

“Of course not. I had nothing to do with it. They confessed. They said they were the ones and I recognized the one who tied me up.”

“There were two?”

“The other one must also have been in the house that night. They said they did it.”

“Do you know their names?”

“No, but they’ll be at the house in another few days for a down payment.”

“All right. We’ll be there.”

And they were. Eight of them in uniform came out of the woodwork all at once and took Pierre and Antoine into custody. Two days later the police detective appeared at Anabelle’s door.

“They deny everything,” he said.

Anabelle almost smiled. Of course they weren’t going to admit their guilt by repeating their allegation. They even had to lie about why they had come to the house, claiming that they were looking for work. It had actually not occurred to them that she might go to the police.

“He took his gloves off when he tied me up. There must be fingerprints somewhere.”

And there were, on the chair, and even traces of DNA on the rope.

“You should be a detective yourself,” the police detective said when they met again.

“Maybe we can have a drink together and you can interview me for a job.”

He laughed. “I don’t know about the second part but I’m game for the first.”

She had to be very discreet as she was still in mourning, so they had their drinks and she gave him a version of her life that skipped over the more unsavory parts. He was just an honest cop with his nose to the grindstone, somewhere in his thirties and never married. She wondered if she could bed down such a man in the big house with the cook and gardener around, given their loyalties, so she decided to wait a while and then get the cook to encourage her new involvement by pretending to feel guilty about it. In the meanwhile she met her detective a few more times for drinks and then they went to a hotel and she also pretended to feel guilty with him, so he very tenderly comforted her and told her that she had to get on with her life and she could see that he was smitten. Pierre and Antoine would soon be going on trial and she would have to testify, so what could be better than having a handsome young police detective watching her back instead of having second thoughts about how the whole thing had gone down.

The trial lasted a week and Pierre and Antoine were duly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. At the end of the year, Anabelle’s detective, Jean-Claude, proposed to her. She accepted and took him home. The cook was pleased to meet him after many long talks with her mistress in which she had reassured Anabelle that she would be happy for her if she found true love again. A month later they were married and took up residence together in the big house, sleeping in the same bedroom where Anabelle had slept with Raymond and having their meals prepared by the same cook. Jean-Claude continued to work as a police detective though they had enough money to last three lifetimes and Anabelle continued to come into town for her shopping, often meeting her new husband for dinner and a show and having no thoughts whatsoever of eliminating him or cultivating new male connections. She had at long last found what she was looking for and no longer felt that she had to have anyone killed to get what she wanted in life. She had come a long way and was ready to settle down and have children. Not every day did a simple country girl like herself get away with murder and become a millionairess.


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