Anne, John and I enjoyed the warm breeze of our last night in Crete. We were sitting at a table overlooking the Aegean sea, momentarily dreading our return to everyday life. The whole office had come to Greece for our annual team-building; the three of us had stayed for a few more days to take advantage of the sunny climate.
We had been sipping red wine in spades since dusk and our heated conversation was starting to make heads turn our way. We moved from UK politics to Ian, the office bully who was coincidentally our CEO’s son. Ian, who hit on all the interns. Ian, who refused to clean up after himself in the kitchen. Ian, who at the last minute always pushed your meetings into the smallest room in the office (affectionately nicknamed “the closet”). It was then that, with slightly drunken eyes, John blurted it out for the first time.
“Maybe we should kill him,” he said.
Anne hit his arm, smiling at him with faux indignation. There was obvious sexual tension between the two of them; I had seen it bubble under the surface many times, usually near the coffee machine. I suspected, with a hint of jealously, that they had begun sleeping together during the trip.
“John, really!” she protested. My eyes skimmed over her tan line, partially hidden under a diminutive summer dress.
“He’d never see it coming…” he continued before smiling. “Three brilliant minds like ours?”
It was a joke, but I could tell from the wistful way in which he breathed in his cigarette that he had entertained the thought before. And, once the idea had been let out into the summer air, something changed between the three of us. It was as if we now had something to fantasise about during lunch hour. Something wicked that was ours and ours alone; something to entertain us inside that tepid, windowless office kitchen.
As it often did, my brain fired on all sorts of wild tangents. If we were to do it, how would we do it? Would we sip poison in his morning coffee? Approach him after work, bash his brain out with a piece of wood, make it look like a theft-gone-wrong? Blackmail him into committing suicide? My mind feasted on the possibilities.
Anne and John exchanged a brief – but unmistakable – look. Now I was sure: they were sleeping together. She curled her lips in an almost imperceptible smile and I spotted her hand caressing his leg underneath the table. The alcohol and the gentle pushing of social boundaries had made them let their guard down. They felt comfortable around me. Two office colleagues having a secret fling and too in lust to care anymore. I had just been made an unwilling accomplice to their crime.
Was I surprised? Not really. You can always tell when a man and a woman start gravitating toward each other. Perhaps they had even laughed at poor old Tom, alone in his room while they came together in glorious unison. I was the beard, the plausible deniability, the card they would throw on the table when the office rumours started to spread. “What, we’re not seeing each other, don’t be silly,” they would say to the hungry faces of our colleagues. “Tom was there with us the whole time, the prices were just too good not to stay!” And I, as a trusted friend, would say: “It was grand.”
It was in that moment, looking at my red wine; then at the pale circle of skin around John’s ring-less finger; and finally at Anne’s radiant, infatuated smile, that the spark of a twisted idea came to me.
“Let’s do it, let’s kill him,” I said with my cigarette hanging from the corner of my mouth. I grabbed the bottle and filled John’s empty glass. “Why the fuck not?”
They both looked at me, stunned that the turtle’s head had come out of its shell.
“Well, look who’s talking!” said John. We cheered with a loud clink-clank as the Greek music enveloped our alcohol-fuelled selves. The intoxicating scent of Anne’s aftersun reached me; I breathed it in, let it twirl and rest inside my lungs.
Murder, yes. But perhaps not the bully’s.