View Full Version : A Prick of Conscience (1700 words)

May 29th, 2014, 01:02 PM
Helen smiled as she re-read the headline of The Weekly Clarion,

She carefully folded the paper and set it down on a conveniently placed table, from where she could read it later. Her arthritis made rising from her armchair, a slow and pain filled manoeuvre, but persevering, she struggled gamely to her feet.

Hindered more than usual by the heavy support bandages that encased her swollen knees, she tottered unsteadily as she straightened, She glanced up at the beautiful French mantle clock that had been a wedding present sixty years ago and smiled at the memories it evoked. As the clock chimed four she snapped out of her reverie and said aloud,
‘Come on old girl, time to get down to the Post Office.’

It wasn’t much of a day out, but Pension day was her favourite day of the week, it broke the monotony of a life usually spent sitting alone listening to the radio or reading novels she had read before but forgotten. She shuffled slowly to the door and from a hook behind the door, lifted a well padded anorak that Will had bought only a month before he passed. She remembered the day he had seen the Advertisement in the Exchange and Mart,
‘Superior Quality Anoraks, as used by Norwegian Army.’

He had cut out the Advert himself, and insisted she send for one immediately.

‘Now Helen, It may not be the height of Fashion, but it will protect you from the worst that this old Country can throw at you.’ He had said in that No Nonsense tone of his, and, as usual he was right, she was glad of it now.

She struggled to get the coat on, the padding was thick and her swollen joints made zipping it up a difficult and time consuming job, but with a little perseverance, she eventually managed it. She pulled her thick woollen hat over her head and carefully tucked any stray wisps of hair inside, pulling the drawstrings tightly under her chin, she tied them as best as she could. She caught sight of herself in the hall mirror and almost burst out laughing. ‘

You wouldn’t be asking me for my phone number now’ She said to the Photograph of a smiling young Will, that hung on the wall behind the door where she could see it from anywhere in the apartment. He had been a shy young Chemistry Student when the photograph was taken and it was still her favourite picture of him. She shook herself and shrugging off the sadness that threatened to overwhelm her. She ran through her check list,
‘Hat, Coat, I.D., Handbag, .Handbag’,

she glanced around before remembering where she had left it last night. Helen tottered across the floor to Wills roll top desk and lifting the errant handbag she undid the several locks on her door and left the apartment. Closing and locking the door securely behind her, Helen proceeded along the gantry and into the elevators pressing G she quickly descended and left the tower block minutes later. Acutely aware of the many youthful eyes that followed she from the moment she left the relative safety of the block, Helen kept her eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead; avoiding all eye contact she negotiated her way through the labyrinth of the inner city Housing project, passed the occasional groups of loitering youths, and headed for the town High Street. Confident in the knowledge that both she and they knew her purse had no cash in it on the outward journey, Helen proceeded without fear and hobbled painfully but determinedly on.

By the time she arrived the Post Office was still quite busy, but the queue had diminished greatly. She had timed it to perfection. She would be in the queue just long enough to hear all the gossip yet not enough to get bored with waiting. It was almost five thirty before she collected her pension and threw the money carelessly into her handbag. As she exited onto the main street Sophie was waiting patiently for her and as they linked arms, proceeded across the road and into ‘La Belle Epoch’ Tea shop. Ordering her usual pot of Earl grey and two blueberry muffins she listened with feigned interest as Sophie wittered on about the trivialities of the week, Helen smiled serenely and responded with an occasional nod or ‘oh really’.

As she finished her tea Helen excused herself and went to the washroom where she quickly withdrew the money from her handbag and slipped it into one of the deep inside pockets of her Scandinavian Anorak. As they parted outside amid much hugging and kissing, and promises to meet again, same time next week, they parted company, Sophie towards the Taxi rank and Helen toward home.

The winter evening had, with its customary thoughtlessness, darkened the streets quickly and effectively. The street lights, at least those that were still unvandalised, offered little aid. The watery yellow light, vying vainly with the gathering darkness, painting the streets with ghastly water colour effect.

Helen stopped on the corner as her eyes were drawn to the local Pharmacy. The new sign had completely changed the fašade of the shop and Helen felt her eyes moisten as she remembered the day when she and Will had proudly erected his own sign above the door.

Helen sighed deeply and with a heavy heart she turned and began the long trek home.

As she reached the estate her trepidation increased and she cast her eyes suspiciously, at every movement, at every corner and alley. Her footsteps echoed hollowly as she re-entered the maze that drew her like a fly to the web. Instinctively she stepped wide at corners and dark alleys but she knew, that they knew, today was pension day. Her heart hammering in her breast she leaned against a well illuminated wall and caught her breath as she gathered her strength for the next few hundred yards.

As she straightened from the wall she didn’t hear the cushioned padding of running shoes on concrete approaching her fast from behind. The shock on the impact knocked her flying to the ground and she threw her out her arms to break her fall. Clinging tightly to her handbag she tried to roll to face her attacker but a swift kick to her ribs knocked the wind out of her and she released her grip on the bag as it was torn from her hands. She heard the slap of the trainers as they accelerated away, speeding down the tunnel toward the catacombs of the underpass. Helen rolled onto her back and pushed herself up into a sitting position, her back resting against the wall. Then tried each of her ankles, then her knees and rocked gently from side to side testing her hips.

Satisfied that nothing was broken she laboured awkwardly to her feet and leaned against the wall as she again waited to regain her breath.
‘At least he didn’t have a knife this time.’ She said aloud to herself. ‘I don’t like knives.’

She began inching her way along the wall after a few paces she was confident enough to let go of the bricks and walk upright. It took her twenty minutes longer than usual to reach her own door.

Checking both approaches on the gantry she drew her keys from a chain around her waist and unlocked the door and entered quickly, slamming and locking it behind her. She took off her coat and hung it behind the door, taking the money out of the pocket she crossed to the roll top desk and tried to open a drawer but stuffed with banknotes it resisted her efforts so she pulled another one. This time there was just enough room to force the banknotes on top and still be able to close it.

Pulling off her hat she set it on the desktop and crossed to the kitchen to light the kettle. Five minutes later she sat down with her cup of tea on her chair side table, she began the laborious task of unwinding the tight support bandages that encased her legs. She rubbed the skin brusquely to get her circulation going then stood up quite quickly and stamped her feet a few times. Drawing up her plaid skirt she unfastened a pair of sponge padded drawers; she hopped up and down as they worked their way to the floor. She stepped lightly out of them and kicked them across the floor.

‘Now, first things first’,
She crossed to the roll top again and opened another small cupboard. With a set of tweezers, she picked up a black ovoid rubber balloon, bristling with short hypodermic needles, each protruding about half an inch. Then as she drew a syringe full of clear liquid from a phial labelled DIGITALIS, she injected the fluid into the black plastic which swelled as it filled. Setting the small black hedgehog, ‘for that’s what it reminded her of,’ gently on the desk she crossed to the cupboard and lifted down a handbag. Inside the handbag was a small leather purse which she took out, opened it carefully, placing it in the centre of the desktop. Using the tweezers again, she placed the hedgehog inside and carefully turned the clasp, the purse bulged promisingly. Holding the purse by the clasp she placed it, into the new handbag. Then carrying the bag by the straps, she hung it on the door beside her coat.

Lifting her newspaper Helen sat down easily and sipped her tea as she began to read the article about the Vigilante. It appeared that eleven well known muggers had in recent weeks died of heart attacks, at first it was believed that drug addictions or life styles may have been responsible, but owing to the fact that all of them had died on a Thursday evening around six o’clock, the Police were entertaining the possibility that another hand might be at work. Helen smiled serenely as she gazed up at Wills photograph knowing he would have been proud of her, then her eyes flickered subconciously to the shakespeare quote just behind it on the wall;

If you prick us do we not bleed?
If you tickle us do we not laugh?
If you poison us do we not die?
And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?

July 17th, 2014, 07:59 PM
Enjoyed this very much. Your title drew me in but as I got further into the story I began asking myself, "What does the opening sentence have to do with this story?" And then you answered me, slowly and deliciously. A few nits here and there regarding spelling and grammar but all in all very well done. Can't imagine why there have been no replies so far but sometimes that's just how it goes.

July 17th, 2014, 08:47 PM
I liked this a lot. Those young thugs underestimated another old fart.