The Right Time for Murder

A short ghost story of 1000 words.

The clock struck three. Anna cursed. Couldn't they stop it at night? Surely there was a law about it. Human Rights. Her rights. To sleep. Turning over she punched the pillow and pulled the duvet over her head, trying to muffle the loud slow tick from the landing. The darn thing wasn't even right. The first time she had heard it clear its throat and rattle, preparing to chime, she had glanced automatically at her wristwatch in the dark. The luminous figures showed the clock was ten minutes slow.

She fell into an uneasy doze but woke suddenly as the clock struck again to find herself shaking and bathed in sweat. In her dream Henry had his hands around her throat. Sitting up in bed she tried to steady her breathing. As though satisfied that its job was done, the clock finished its performance. All was silence again.

'Clock? What clock?' Liz Soames gaped at her bed-and-breakfast visitor as she served up coffee and bacon and eggs.

Anna shrugged. 'I didn't see it when I came down but it kept me awake all night. Hasn't anyone else complained?' She tried to soften her headache-fuelled truculence with a shrug.

Liz laughed harshly. 'No, my dear, no one. And I'll tell you for why. There isn't a clock. Not one that chimes or ticks or even whispers.' She looked round the small dining area. 'Search the house! I promise you, you won't find a clock anywhere.'

'Then what did I hear? It wasn't imaginary!'

But it was. After she packed her bag later she peeped as invited into the other rooms. Every pretty, carefully furnished bedroom was clockless. As was the living area, hall, landing, and even the kitchen. The only time piece in the place was an integral part of the cooker.

'It must have been a dream.' As she paid her money Anna smiled apologetically.

'More like a nightmare by the sound of it.' Liz raised an eyebrow tartly. 'Come again!' It was her way of saying goodbye. Automatic. Firm. It precluded long farewells.


As she closed the door after her guest Liz took a deep breath. Her hands had started to shake. Slowly she made her way back into the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee then she sank into a chair. Through the window she saw Anna's car reverse out of the drive, slowly turn behind the tall hedge and disappear up the quiet road. The house fell once more into deep silence. The way she liked it.

It was ten years since her husband, Stan, had died. Ten blissfully tranquil years where she had transformed the over-furnished, noisy, house into a little business offering B & B with three bedrooms, each supplied with electric kettle, T.V, chintz curtains and bed covers and above all, tranquillity. People never tended to stay more than a night or two; never exchanged more than small talk over the cornflakes and full English. They handed over their money, complimented her on the comfort of the rooms and the peacefulness and left her to the silence. No one had ever before complained about the clock.

She put her head in her hands and rubbed her face wearily. Coincidence. That was all it was. No need to worry. Never any worry.

Unless the woman was psychic.


Drawing up at the crossroads Anna looked at the sign post and frowned. She had heard of none of the villages indicated. It didn't matter. Where was she going? That didn't matter either as long as Henry couldn't find her. The sunlight threw dappled shadows through the leaves of the trees onto the windscreen, flickering onto the passenger seat. For a moment it looked - almost - as though someone was sitting there.

She accelerated away from the crossroads, heading up hill and glanced sideways.

'Who are you?' Her voice shook.

There was no reply. There was no one there. Relieved, she put her foot down. Breasting the hill she pulled into a lay-by and winding down the window gazed out at the view. Somewhere above in the dazzle of the sky a lark was singing.

'She killed me, you know.' The tone was quiet. Resigned.

Clutching the steering wheel in terror Anna gasped. 'What did you say?' She groped for the door handle.

'The clock. She unhooked one of the weights. When I went to see why it had stopped she hit me with it. Then she wiped it; put it back inside the cabinet. Re-started it. Dragged my body down the hall. The whole thing took barely ten minutes, start to finish. No one ever suspected or looked for a weapon. They thought I'd fallen downstairs.'

Anna turned, curiosity overcoming fear. 'What did she do with the clock?' She could see him now faintly. No more than a shadow really; see the rueful, inoffensive shake of the head.

'Sold it. Sold them all. Forty nine of them.'

'All chiming?'

'They drove her nuts.'

'I'm not surprised.'

'You're the first person to hear the clock. I wanted someone to know. No one cared, you see.'

'What do you want me to do?'

'Nothing.' He seemed to be listening to the skylark. 'There's no point now. I'm content. So is she.'

'But she got away with it!'

There was no reply. The passenger seat was empty.

Anna stared down at her hands. They had a long case clock. It had belonged to Henry's grandfather. Supposing next time Henry came home in a drunken rage, threatening to kill her, he were to fall down stairs. She had always disguised her misery, hidden her bruises, too proud to cry. No one would suspect. She could sell the clock; sell the flat. Escape properly this time. For good. With a smile she started to turn the car. Who would ever find out what had really happened? No one.

Unless they were psychic.

By Barbara Erskine

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