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It’s Your Turn

March 23, 2009 by · No comments

Zdravka Evtimova

Photo: ktylerconk

Elinor Cunnigham was an exceptionally cold-blooded woman. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at a small, crumpled newspaper clipping. Her fingers trembled with suppressed rage. She found the clipping in her husband’s wallet during one of her regular searches.

It was an advertisement carefully underlined by Henry. There could be no doubt that Henry himself had done that. He had used the platinum pen kept especially for signing company mergers and the most important contracts of the week. There was something else: that pen was his talisman.

Henry Cunnigham was one of the richest men in North America; renowned for his fabulous wealth and the unbelievable sums of money he squandered gratifying his whims. Such a man, soberly noted Elinor, would not waste time reading advertisements in gossipy newspapers. Yet the clipping was in her hands and Henry had saved it in his wallet.

Wild Life Ltd Works For Influential People.

As Elinor read further, her face gradually lost its color.

We can transform every courageous person into any living being they fancy.
Do you dream of becoming a lion?
Do you want to feel the power?
You can!
Are you yearning to experience the ferocity of a shark?
Your dream can come true with our help!
Would you like to discover why a dog is loyal to its master?
Here is the answer!
We guarantee impunity of your acts while you are a free wild being.
Wild Life Ltd challenges the brave: free yourself from your
restricting human skin; find your selfhood, your true nature!
Wild Life Ltd is the only organization offering you a way out!

Elinor Cunnigham did not need to read the advertisement to the end. An unpleasant thought had crossed her mind. “Oh, Henry,” she murmured. “You have really made up your mind this time.”

The private detective Elinor Cunnigham originally hired had explained to her in unambiguous phrases that Sir Henry often visited 5 Dove Street – a magnificent snow-white house where the famous ballerina Florence Hughes lived. She was devastatingly beautiful and had been a valuable companion for him at receptions and parties for five successive seasons. On hearing the detective’s report Elinor Cunnigham had began to surreptitiously check her husband’s personal papers and

It was the last Friday of May when Elinor discovered the newspaper advertisement. She had a thought that sent a shiver along her spine: Is this why Henry has been on a severe diet for three weeks? Why is he having nothing but orange juice day and night? What is he up to?

Elinor then visited Doctor Burrows who had taken care of her husband’s health since Henry’s birth.

“Do not worry, Mrs Cunnigham”, the doctor said with a non-committal smile. “Sir Henry is extremely healthy. His body is strong, well trained and needs only a minimal diet.”

Yet Henry Cunnigham had ceased eating; he had decided to turn into another being: a tiger, a lion, a hyena. Another affordable whim. The turnover of his companies exceeded a quarter of a billion on a daily basis. So Wild Life was the latest quirk of Elinor’s eccentric husband.

On the very same evening Elinor Cunnigham found the advertisement, she started taking lessons to shoot at a moving target. She had not breathed a word about it, not even to her closest friend Susan, Chair of the Duchess’ Club. In the beginning Elinor practiced with a safari gun, before deciding on an exquisite revolver. Meanwhile, she tried to draw out her husband.

“Henry, do you think that a single glass of orange juice is enough for you to keep body and soul together? You are a big, strong man, darling.”

Sir Henry’s features contracted into a peculiar ferocious expression. Within a split second his white teeth flashed, radiating a sharp bloodthirsty glow.

“Do not worry about me, darling”, he said, his eyes avoiding hers.

Elinor was not worried at all. She had slipped her dainty revolver under the silky pillow on her bed. The polished metal surface glinting gently in the gloom of the baroque bedroom. A second revolver lay expertly hidden in a vase just outside the parlor. Elinor was now prepared for any ferocious beast crouching in the shadows of her home.

Today is the day, Elinor thought. She dropped an empty glass on the tile floor and collected the shards herself – she did not want servants to witness what she was about to do. As Elinor bent to kiss Henry goodnight that evening, she let the sharp pieces of broken glass pierced his hand. His tanned skin shone with coppery warmth as it began to bleed.

Strangely, for a moment, it seemed a droplet of water shimmered there also, apparently unwilling to mingle with Sir Henry’s blood.

“I am so sorry, dear,” Elinor whispered softly. Henry’s face lit with that distant, peculiar smile, his sharp teeth gleaming.

“Forget it, my love”, he muttered softly.

The full moon shone into the bedroom. Henry Cunnigham’s bed was empty. The sheets and the blankets were rolled in a mess, strewn with short, russet hairs.

Elinor woke in fright as the long, pointed claws of a bulldog tore at her nightclothes. Her shoulder was bleeding. The muzzle of the beast was smeared with her blood and its jowls gaped open hungering for her throat. The glowing teeth of that enormous head swung above her face and for a moment reminded Elinor of someone very familiar.

“That’s you, Henry!” she shouted and bucked and twisted seizing the gun. A muffled shot. A low growling moan filled the air before the heavy bulldog slumped limp across Elinor’s chest. The miniature revolver was hot and still smoking in her hand.

…Nine days later, Henry Cunnigham, the fabulously rich owner of petrol refineries, was slowly regaining his strength in a luxury hospital room. His body was weak yet the readings of the medical
equipment were encouraging. Sir Henry would soon recover in Doctor Burrows’s opinion. The doctor had tactfully retreated leaving three people in the room: Henry, beautiful Florence Hughes and Mr Brinkley, a representative of Wild Life Ltd.

“Sir”, ventured Brinkley timidly. “I hope you are satisfied with our service despite the little accident you had. The doctors say your wound is healing well.” The official of Wild Life Ltd pursed his lips
in a plaintive funnel searching for another excuse.

“I am satisfied,” Henry Cunnigham answered curtly. “This is for you.” At the sight of the sum written on the cheque, a broad smile lit Brinkley’s face. Ignoring it, Sir Henry said impatiently: “You can go now.”

Nothing in the tycoon’s voice betrayed the fact that he had survived a bullet. He was being taken care of by the best team of doctors in the country, and in ten days time would be up and about as promised. Yes, there was a powerful reason to be impatient: Florence Hughes. She sat on the edge of his bed, smiling wistfully, gently dabbing the beads of perspiration on Henry’s forehead.

“Dear Florence,” Henry whispered lovingly. “Your idea was brilliant. I… I am done with Elinor. She is no more… there will be no sleuths dogging us everywhere. The world will leave us alone at last.”

“God bless Elinor,” the beauty whispered piously. “Perhaps she’s already on her way to Heaven.”

Henry Cunnigham was happy. He had often asked himself how Flo was able to transform each word she pronounced into magic. This magnificent woman was worth everything.

As Henry summoned the nurse to bring some food, Florence remarked: “The police haven’t discovered Elinor’s body yet. They found several bones and that was all.”

“Perhaps the bulldog was not hungry enough and left them for later on”, Henry noted calmly. For a moment his teeth shone with a sharp, weird luster. “Let’s not talk about Elinor any more.” He stroked the hand of his beautiful ballerina.

At that moment the door of the room opened and an elderly nurse stood in the dim rectangular patch of light.

“This is for you, Sir,” she said, handing Sir Henry a small, expensive cassette recorder. “And, if it is possible, Sir, Mr Brinkley from Wild Life would like to discuss it with you afterwards.”

Puzzled, Henry took the recorder.

“Leave the room!” he ordered the nurse. He switched on the machine; the wheels turned slowly. Then Henry gave a violent start as Elinor’s voice came through the microphone.

“Dear Henry … when I found the Wild Life advertisement, I understood instantly that you were up to no good. Of course, it was quite difficult for me to stomach the idea that you would turn yourself into some sort of beast to be rid of me.”

Elinor’s voice sounded calm, even slightly bored.

“I had to take precautions you understand. I had no other choice but to shoot the bulldog… that would be you, darling… just before he ripped my throat open. I do hope that your wound is not serious. Please, forgive me if I made you suffer.

“There is one more thing you need to know. I decided it would be wise to use the services of Wild Life Ltd as you had already done. Perhaps you still remember the broken glass that cut your hand that night before you attacked me? I hope you have not forgotten the droplet of water. Concentrate on that droplet, dear, it is a very important item.

“Wild Life helped me and transformed me into a strain of virus, the HIV virus to be exact, dear – they wriggled in that droplet of water, the poor darlings. Before the wound on your hand healed, I penetrated your bloodstream.

“Doctor Burrows informs me that the HIV virus does not reproduce itself for ten days after entering its host’s body. Henry, I’m afraid you have already lost nine days. At this point, you have at your disposal no more than four hours. Within this limited period of time you will have to transfer all your property – companies, trusts, assets and stocks – into my name. I also require that you give me a written statement, confirmed by the signature of a notary, that you will divorce me. Otherwise the HIV virus will begin to reproduce in your blood and the experts of Wild Life will not be able to transform me back into the loving woman that I am.

“If you choose not to carry out my request, you will have the consolation that I shall accompany you to the world beyond; I hope that you won’t mind my being a virus causing AIDS, will you? Goodbye, dear.”

Henry Cunnigham remained immobile for more than a minute. The beads of perspiration trickled down his forehead, wetting the neat bandages. His hands reached for the beautiful woman; her face had almost entirely blanched. She recoiled, terrified.

“A notary! A notary! I need some paper!” Henry Cunnigham started shouting. “Quick! Quick! Quick!”

“Goodbye, Henry Cunnigham,” said the magnificent Florence Hughes as she sashayed through the door, swaying her exquisite thighs.

“Flo! Flo! Please help me!”

Henry wept. There was nobody left in the room.

Categories: Frontpage · Prose



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