BEHIND THE MASK
Even expecting the power out, Paul panicked when he couldn’t see a thing. Stick to the plan, he told himself. Sharon had come down after him. All he had to do was follow through.
He waited for his eyes to adjust – soon there was a touch of light filtering through the window to etch the panes against his eyelids every time he closed his eyes.
Stick to the plan.
Well, it had been a good idea at the time.
Now that Sharon was here he felt as though his personal space had been invaded.
He had noticed how she had taken note of his computer, the widescreen TV and the books in the bookcase. Almost wilted under that distasteful look as she caught sight of his X-Box 360 and the ‘Resident Evil 5’ game box that sat on top. Her eyes accused him of playing games instead of writing.
For God’s sake, he thought, Brett Shayne’s hero plays on an X-Box 360 – it’s there for research.
And this was his place so he could do as he damn well pleased.
He swept aside the sudden spurt of guilt.
Paul had come a long way from the days when he had pounded away on an old battered typewriter writing short stories that nobody wanted. Stories that Paul believed that no one wanted to read. Things had changed now for a Brett Shayne story was in great demand with publishers fighting over them.
Brett Shayne had never experienced Sharon’s tut-tutting as he hammered away at the keys.
Brett Shayne was the big hit these days. Brett Shayne appeared on television happy to give interviews or dispense his knowledge of the literary world on radio talk shows. It was he who was invited to big, literary lunches.
Not plain Paul Underwood.
Paul drew a deep breath.
Stick to the plan – who’s plan?
Paul was confused and the darkness did not help. It just deepened his mood to the point that he was not sure what he was meant to do.
The book – that was it – THE book. Sharon had laughed when rejection slip after rejection slip had passed through the letterbox. Sharon had told him to give up and, maybe, he would have done had not that inner voice whispered – and later screamed – at him to try again.
If he had ignored that voice Brett Shayne would not have existed. It happened one morning when he picked up that envelope. The letter began ‘Dear Brett Shayne…..’ and the rest was history. The book then the movie then the sequel and the movie and Brett Shayne had become a celebrity.
The only recognition Paul Underwood got was his name on the cheques.
Sharon had been there for that first cheque and all the others that followed, with her hand out – not wanting to share the moment – just wanting the money.
She had not minded when he said that he was going to get a place where he could get peace and quiet while he wrote his books. Sharon didn’t mind as he wouldn’t be under her feet all the time.
Then she was there interrupting his thoughts as she demanded if he had any candles. Paul stumbled through the affirmative answer as he rummaged in his trouser pockets for a lighter.
A snort came from behind him as he felt his way towards the table by the window. Sharon thought that he would have been better organised – a comment that stung him. He just wilted under her tone as his thumb snapped the wheel against a flint that refused to spark.
Damn it – Brett Shayne would have lit the candles with just one flick of the lighter.
The twin flames shimmered over the pink icing decorated with a bunch of pink candy roses. The flickering flames sparkled along the edge of the blade of the knife that lay on the plate alongside the cake.
Paul picked up the knife.
And Sharon burst into tears as she uttered her surprise that he, Paul, had remembered her birthday. Her voice was soft – as soft as the day that they had first met thirty years ago and before they had embarked on a childless marriage that had made her bitter and Paul sought solace in writing.
It suddenly hit him – she had called him Paul.
Stick to the plan – his mind screamed.
He wished her a happy birthday as he plunged the knife into her heart.
As Sharon died so Paul ceased to exist – for neither belonged in Brett Shayne’s world.