Jimmy Scuttle navigated the stream of mourners, avoiding those he knew to be lethal. No reporter had ever managed to get one verifiable fact about this family or their dubious dealings and Jimmy intended to be the first. However, his detailed fake persona and background would only hold up so long under scrutiny so he needed to get the job done quick and promptly vanish.
The wake was at the deceased, Big Raz’s, impressive suburban home. Mansion, more like. The hallway was a room unto itself, with a wide marble staircase that began on the left and curved round to meet the second floor on the right. Every surface gleamed. They must have staff, but who would dare work for these people?
Ornate mahogany double-doors opened out into a grandiose lounge to his left. Jimmy spied a long white-clothed table festooned with triangular sandwiches and cocktail sausages, but everyone was still milling about in the hall. He recognised some of the faces and wished he didn’t. Dangerous men and women, gathered peacefully like rival assassins under a flimsy
banner of truce. Waiters popped up, offering glasses of champagne. Jimmy accepted one and took a sip, willing himself to look solemn and not terrified.
He stiffened as a young woman swept towards him. Her black dress was far too revealing for a funeral and the long chestnut hair did little to obscure her impressive cleavage. She held her champagne flute in delicately poised red-tipped fingers, “I don’t know you.”
He smiled, “Darren White. Pleased to meet—”
“I know everyone else,” she said, smoky blue eyes narrowing, “I don’t know you.” Shit. He recognised her now: Big Raz’s daughter, Camille Hawthorne.
“Pardon me, Miss Hawthorne. I was only recently hired,” he said, making his brown eyes sorrowful, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
All those hours in front of the mirror clearly paid off as Camille’s suspicion wavered and then evaporated. She nodded her thanks and turned away, sailing off into the murmuring black bodies. Jimmy swallowed, feeling sweat beading down his spine in spite of his preparations. This was like walking a frayed tightrope over an open tank full of piranha fish. What was he thinking? Of course, they would quickly realise his deception and these were not the sort of people who would simply throw him out. They would have questions, retribution to exact. Jimmy scanned the room. A muscular man with a thick scar running down one side of his face, glanced in his direction.
He should just leave. Leave now before anyone else—
He tensed. Edina Hawthorne, Big Raz’s widow, parted from the main group and began ascending the staircase. Alone. No one followed her. Now was his chance! The things that woman must know! But how to get up there unnoticed?
Sipping his champagne, he stepped casually through the crowd, avoiding eye-contact. This building was immense; there must be another way upstairs, he just had to find it. After a quiet word with one of the waiters – imploring directions to a more secluded toilet – he found himself in a narrow corridor somewhere to the lefi of the funeral hubbub and then proceeded to ‘get lost’.
At the back of the building, he found another staircase, straight and plain, though the navy carpet looked new. He winced as it creaked under his weight, but pushed onwards. He passed numerous closed doors, resisting the urge to take a peek; if he was caught snooping in the bedrooms, that would be much more difficult to explain.
It wasn’t so large of a building for him to get disorientated, but he made careful notes along his passage nonetheless, sensing that he may need to make a hasty escape.
He found Edina easily enough in a cosy lounge; all creams and light pastels, it oozed serenity. She stood gazing out of a wide windowpane at the back garden, side-on to the doorway; she would have seen him arrive. Jimmy took a breath and stepped into the room.
“I’m terribly sorry, Ma’am,” he said, “I didn’t mean to disturb.”
“That’s alright.” She didn’t sound annoyed, but didn’t turn to face him either. “I’m sorry for your lo—”
She waved a hand, dismissing his words and sighed. Edina was slender with a delicate black net obscuring most of her face, “Did you know my husband well?”
“I worked for him on occasion, you know,” he said, the practised words skipping off his tongue, “He was kind to me. If you need anything, just say the word. I’d be happy to help.”
Vagueness was the key, especially since he’d never actually met “Big Raz”. If he could just get her talking, something interesting was bound to slip out. She turned, gliding forwards until she was close enough for Jimmy to smell her floral perfume. The resemblance to her daughter was striking, they even moved the same; fluid, like dancers. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something slightly different about the mother’s easy grace.
“Do you know how he got the nickname, ‘Big Raz’?” she asked. “To be honest, I never gave it much thought.”
She smiled, showing perfect white teeth. “It was because he really, really liked razor blades.”
Jimmy froze as metal flashed in Edina’s hand. Suddenly, sharp steel pressed against his windpipe with unnerving precision. She continued as if nothing unusual was happening, “My husband was not kind to anyone, Mr Scuttle. He was a barbarian; vicious and cruel.”
Sickness stirred in his gut. He should have seen it straight away. The difference. The daughter moved like a dancer, but the mother was a serpent, a snake charming it’s prey, swaying to a rhythm only she could hear. Jimmy blinked, the blood draining from his face.
“You k-know my name.” “Obviously.”
With her free hand, Edina pulled back the spiderweb mesh from her face, revealing dark intelligent eyes bristling with fury, “Happy to help if I needed anything? Well, as it turns out, I do have a few jobs I’d like you to take care of… assuming you don’t have any objections?”
Jimmy dared not swallow lest the knife-edge pierce his throat. Still, despite the blood-pounding panic, he managed to croak out an earnest, “No, Ma’am.”