Settling In. Short Story.

John struggled with the bags he was carrying, it was supposed to be Jane’s turn to do the shopping, but she hadn’t bothered, not that he was surprised. She was off doing something else, he didn’t know, nor did he want to know, it was none of his business. He wasn’t a huge fan of hers, but she had been an ok roommate so far, a few mishaps here and there, but she was much better than the last guy. Besides they had only been living together for a few weeks, they were still settling into things. He stopped at the door and set the bags down, searching his pockets for the keys. They slid into the door with a satisfying click, then he twisted it, to the left of the door a small panel slid upwards, John entered the pass code, then removed the key and slid it into the second lock that revealed itself. The door clicked, then hissed as it opened, he pushed it and bent to pick up the bags, as he did so a thick, heavy, coppery odour greeted him. He grabbed the bags and looked behind himself quickly, the property was lined with tall and thick hedges, still, it was better to be careful. He stepped into the hall and knocked the door closed with his foot. He paused and listened for the tell-tale sound of it locking again, then he headed towards the kitchen. The smell was everywhere. He put his stuff down on the kitchen table then started unpacking, it was better to get this done first. Jane would, no doubt, be lurking somewhere around the house and she wouldn’t appear until everything was done. He left the receipt on the spike beside the fridge where they stored their expenses, and went in search of her.

He found it as soon as he stepped into the sitting room, a large puddle of blood, the edges were drying and tacky, the centre of it still looked glossy.

“Oh for fucksake. This is the common area.” There was no sign of Jane in the room, nor was anything out of place. This was the first time she had done something like this, though he had half expected it. He moved across the sitting room, careful to avoid the puddle of blood, he didn’t want to track it through the house, or get whoevers DNA it was all over himself.
“Jane!?” No response. He had searched downstairs, but there was no sign of her, sighing he went to the stairs, maybe she was in her room, blasting music or something, the walls were all well sound proofed. He checked his room first, just to be certain, then the bathroom, knocking gently in case she was showering or something. After that he checked the office, both his and hers, then finally, he knocked on the door of her room, no answer. He knocked again, not wanting to go in, it seemed like an invasion. John had never seen the inside of her room, like she had never seen the inside of his. She would have heard him knocking either way. He stood for a second, fidgeting, then decided she wouldn’t be there. There was one last place to check.

He went downstairs and unlocked the basement door, it was always locked, whether someone was down there or not. The stairway was brightly lit, and led down to a small hallway with a door on either side of it. He paused at Jane’s doorway, then knocked heavily. No response. He was about to knock again when he paused, there was something about these doors and contacting people inside, what was it? He looked at the small keypad and saw a button with a speaker on it. He pressed it and waited a moment.

“uhh hello?”
“Hey Jane, it’s John. I wanted to talk to you about the mess in the living room.”
“Shit. Sorry. I got distracted, hang on.”
The door hissed slightly and popped open an inch, John pulled it open and stepped inside. The basic layout of the room was identical to his, but Jane had decorated it much differently than he would have expected. She was wearing an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt, both were dark in colour, her blond hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail.
“I’m really sorry, I meant to clean it up right away, but I just got so excited I forgot about it. He was fresh and I was just a little carried away.”
John shook his head slightly, “I understand, I really do, but you have to clean up your messes. It’ll be harder to clean up once it dries.”
“You’re right, you really are and if anything is said I’ll take full responsibility.”
John let out a little sigh of relief, “Ok. Good.” He turned to leave, then paused part way, “Nice work by the way.”
Jane smiled, “Thanks. I’m quite proud of it.”
The man lay on the table, thousands of tiny, bleeding swirls cut into his skin. His mouth was gagged, his wrists and legs bound. He was breathing, but shallowly. “I thought he’d be dead by now, it was a lot of blood upstairs.”
“I stopped the bleeding pretty fast, had to cauterise it though.”
“Did they say when the next delivery would be?”
“They said yours would be here tonight, tomorrow morning at the latest.”
John smiled, “Good. Thanks…Look, if you want I can clear the blood. I don’t want to interrupt your project.”
“Really? That would be amazing.”
“Yeah, I’ll get rid of it. Though in exchange you’re gonna have to do the shopping for the next three weeks.”
“Shit. That was today, wasn’t it?”
“I’ll cook dinner tonight and tomorrow night too if we have a deal?”
Smiling, John left her to her work.

Upstairs he gathered the cleaning supplies and started to scrub. It wouldn’t take all that long to clean it properly, maybe half an hour, a little longer if he was unlucky. It was his first real argument with Jane, but it resolved itself nicely. Maybe she wasn’t as bad as he thought. They said they wouldn’t move him again, he had already moved three times. It was annoying bureaucratic nonsense, but he couldn’t really complain even though none of it was his fault. He got paid to do what he loved and they disposed of everything for him. It was the perfect job really. He knew there were a few safe houses like this around the country, though how many he wasn’t entirely sure, but he suspected at least fifty. And he was able to meet such interesting people, though of course some came to him a little more…used than others.

When everything was clean he went upstairs to the bathroom and hopped into the shower, he wanted to be clean and ready when they brought his next project in. As he was drying off the smell of food gently wafted up the stairs. John put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, smiling, he headed downstairs, looking forward to a hot, fresh meal. He was starting to enjoy living with Jane.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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