He laughs. Of course he does. Stupid bitch. Is she actually threatening him? He’s bigger and stronger than her; it’s not a fight she can win. She must know that.
‘I get it,’ he says. ‘You’re upset.’
Her body is rigid with rage, her breathing shallow. That may be an understatement.
He lets his gaze stray to the vast plate glass window. The evening sun is sinking over the harbour. A view that certainly justifies the £200k price tag. The door to the balcony stands open and he can feel the light spring breeze. It’s warm for early May. The sharp tang of seaweed, the strains of off-key karaoke float up from a quayside bar. When this place is launched on the market in a few days he’s going to make a mint. Six luxury apartments. His vision, his graft made this happen. No way will he let the silly cow spoil it with her jealous nonsense.
Perhaps he should just give her a slap. Remind her who’s boss. That’ll bring her to her senses.
But instead he decides to smile. He’s a man of property. He can afford to be benevolent.
‘I’ve got a bottle of bubbly in the fridge. Not the cheap stuff. Got it from my wine club. I was saving it to celebrate the first sale. But let’s crack it open now, take it outside, watch the sunset. What do you say? There’s no need for this.’
He gives her his aww-shucks boyish grin. I know I’ve been naughty again, but you know I’m really a lovable lad. For most of his forty-three years this has worked with the women in his life, from his mother onwards.
He opens the fridge. High-end Bosch fridge-freezer, included in the asking price. The show flat has been dressed with a selection of cool contemporary furniture to help the punters imagine what it would be like to live there. According to the agent this adds £30k to the value, so worth the effort.
He takes out a bottle of Prosecco. Beaded moisture on the glass. He brandishes it with a smile. Women need a firm hand but charm goes a long way and costs nothing. This was his father’s advice to him as a teenager and over the years it’s proved useful.
The target market for the development is London-based, affluent second homeowners looking for a luxury bolthole in Devon. Local yobs need not apply. He had a bit of hassle from the town council with their usual guff about affordable housing for locals. There was a public meeting at which some of the rougher elements got to vent their spleen. But he’d seen them off with a couple of strategically placed backhanders: to the chair of the planning committee, lovely lady who knew the form, and the senior planning officer.
He lifts two elegant champagne flutes off the shelf. And as he turns back to face her he sees it coming straight at him. Dark, blurry, fast. Cold steel. Thwack! Right in the middle of his forehead. Instant pain.
He staggers backwards, head spinning. The glasses fall and shatter. He grabs the granite-topped kitchen counter for support. The second blow is to the temple. He lashes out, makes a grab for her throat. But she skips away out of his reach. He lurches sideways. What is it? A hammer? Where the hell did it come from? She’s hitting him with a hammer!
The pain is excruciating. His stomach heaves and he vomits on the floor.
‘For Chrissake!’ he wails. He raises his forearm to ward off further blows.
She steps back. He sinks to his knees. Is it over?
‘You listening now?’ she says.
What’s she taking about? His head is throbbing. He can hardly think.
‘I didn’t mean to…’
He tastes bile in his gullet. His vision swims. He’s going to puke again. Her face looms over him, tight and red and furious.
Her arm goes up and he sees it. A lump hammer. The square-ended carbon steel head. The builders must have left it, stupid bastards, he’ll have to have a word. This is the last lucid thought he has.
The third blow cracks open his skull.