Runner-up: Peter Harris, the Spider and the Leaf

By Emma Ayteen

Emma says: I was given an online crime writing course as an unexpected present from a friend, who wanted to give me something to do whilst I was recovering from a broken wrist and ankle after tripping over a paving stone. This is my first acceptable effort.

Peter Harris, respected antique dealer, Chairman of the Village Committee, bastion of society, took a satsuma from the antique Rose Medallion fruit bowl. (Bought on the knocker from an elderly lady unaware of its true value.) 

He took a small plate, antique Staffordshire blue and white willow pattern, bought from the same old lady.  The plate was from a set displayed prominently on a large pine Welsh dresser, left behind by the previous owner on the basis the dresser was too cumbersome to move.  This owner also had been unaware of its true value and Peter Harris had omitted to tell him.  

He put the plate on the mahogany dining room table.  He had paid full price for the table, much to his disappointment.  The owner had refused to lower the price, even though Peter Harris had haggled hard. In the end he had paid the asking price. He had really wanted the table but he was still annoyed about it.  

He put the satsuma on the plate, moved it a fraction to the left so it was exactly central, and studied it. It looked dry. He would have to speak to his wife about that.  His beautiful wife, he reminded himself.

Upstairs, the beautiful wife lay sleeping in a king-size brass bed.  Her long red hair spread over the snowy white Egyptian cotton pillowcase, thread count 700 (part of a set which Peter Harris had bought from a troubled stockbroker friend who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and trying to raise some quick cash to fund his burgeoning cocaine habit). 

Unnoticed by anyone, a tiny money spider crept silently along the rail of the brass bedstead in which she slept. It began silently spinning a gossamer web. 

Downstairs, Peter Harris had advanced in his dealings with the satsuma. He had peeled the skin and placed it on the very edge of the willow pattern plate. The satsuma looked even dryer now. He really would have to speak to his wife.  

The tiny spider was spinning its silken web upstairs. The beautiful wife lay peacefully sleeping.

Peter Harris looked at the satsuma. He separated it into nine equal segments, then placed the segments evenly around the plate. He wondered how dry it would actually be. It did look very dry. He really would need to speak to his wife about that. He ate a segment of the satsuma. It was dry, very dry, but he ate it anyway. He did not believe in letting anything go to waste. Not even a dry satsuma. 

Peter Harris sat at the antique mahogany table, thinking about the dry satsuma and thinking about his beautiful wife. Then he slowly stood up and walked quietly up the stairs to the bedroom.

On the half landing, he stopped and looked out of the arched Palladian window.  The verdant lawn, tightly cropped and sheared, stretched as far as he could see (which wasn’t in fact that far as the morning mist had not evaporated).  

It was still early, not yet 6.00 o’clock. Peter Harris would never allow himself to lie in bed. Not like some people, lazy people he called them. Of course, that didn’t include his still-sleeping wife. She could lie in bed as long as she wished.

He watched as the mist slowly lifted. It was going to be another clear day, although still chilly. Not that he, nor his wife, would need to worry about that. It was very warm in the house, almost too warm. He must adjust the thermostat; it wouldn’t do to waste heating. 

As the mist rose and more of the lawn came into view, he frowned. There was a small brown leaf lying on his pristine green lawn. He peered more closely and his frown deepened.  He did not want a leaf on his perfect lawn, however small it might be. This would not do. He would ask the gardener to remove it. As he continued to glare at the leaf, a small breeze blew it further across the lawn. Now it was lying right in the middle. Right in his line of sight.  Spoiling the view of his perfect green lawn.  

Peter Harris was becoming agitated. His day so far was not going well. First, the dry satsuma and now this uninvited leaf. And, of course, his beautiful wife. But he would deal with her later.

Peter Harris stared at the leaf. It was no good, he would have to remove it. He turned abruptly to walk back down the stairs. He walked halfway down and then remembered why he had come up them in the first place. He had needed to speak to his wife about the dry satsuma. And other things. Blasted leaf, the gardener could deal with it. That was what he was paid for.

Peter Harris turned, walked up two steps and stopped, turned around, walked back down two steps, then turned around and walked back up again. He stopped on the half landing and looked out of the window. 

The mist was lifting and now he could see the leaf more clearly. It was no good, it would have to go. He looked at his watch. It was still only a little after six. The gardener would not be there for another two hours. But he, Peter Harris, would not be bested by a mere leaf. He would remove it himself. He needed some fresh air anyway.  

He turned around again, his mind made up. He would walk downstairs, go outside and remove the leaf himself.  

Upstairs, the tiny spider continued spinning its web, which now covered part of one corner of the big brass bedstead. The spider spun. The beautiful wife slept on, unaware of the spider, unaware of the web, unaware of the leaf. Unaware of anything but peaceful sleep. 

Peter Harris dithered. He really must speak to his wife but the leaf was really offending him. He couldn’t make up his mind what to do: Deal with the leaf, or speak to his wife? He took a deep breath and thought for a moment. First things first.  He would speak to his wife. He really didn’t want to, but it would have to be done. 

His beautiful wife. He had really loved her. Right up until the moment he had seen her with another man. Seen her enjoying the company of another man. Seen her enjoying . . .  but no, Peter Harris would not allow himself to think about what he had seen her enjoying, save to feel a great hate that she no longer enjoyed that with him. Well, he would soon deal with that. 

Peter Harris made up his mind. He strode purposefully up the stairs and opened the door to the bedroom. He walked over to the bed and picked up one of the pillows, 70% pure duck down made from the finest 100% down pearls (also purchased from the same unfortunate stockbroker friend). He smoothed out a small crease in the pillowcase, held the pillow firmly in both hands, and gently and purposefully smothered his beautiful and unfaithful wife to death.

Then Peter Harris marched outside and dealt briskly and finally with the offending leaf.