Thursday, November 05, 2015

Day 5 - Perfect Strangers

Alan Finch always looked at a woman’s photo for a good few seconds before choosing whether to swipe left or to swipe right because he liked to be sure. He’d heard someone once say that attraction was something that the human brain processed in the fraction of a second but it didn’t seem to work for him like that; he needed time. Neither was he interested in adopting the scattergun approach so loved by many men and swiping right on everything in the hope of achieving success purely through the laws of probability. When he swiped right, he did it with purpose.

So far, he’d only swiped right eight times that evening; a success rate of approximately one in twenty. But the night was still young and London was a big city, lots of fish in this particular sea and he was fairly confident that he’d meet the right person soon. And, if not, well he was going to be leaving London tomorrow and flying back to San Francisco and his real life.

A notification tone interrupted him from his thoughts and he realised that he’d matched with someone; Helen, a dark haired woman with green eyes. He smiled; if there had been one of the eight that he had most hoped would match with him tonight, it had been Helen.

He lay back on the hotel bed and stared at her photo for a few seconds, imagining that she was somewhere nearby looking at his photo, and then wrote her a short message.


Helen Brannigan smirked as the message came through. It was straight to the point; no vacuous flattery but not smutty either, just a simple request to meet for a drink and see if the attraction was mutual in real life. She liked the fact that Alan seemed to be both confident and direct; she also liked the fact that he had been honest enough to state on his profile that he was in town for one night only and that he was looking for something casual.

Casual was good; she preferred casual. And she definitely preferred the guys who were from out of town; meeting someone local just complicated things and reduced the chances of it being one night of fun. There was always a chance of a follow up with a local guy; but someone from out of town, well they just flew out of her life the next day.

She waited a suitably polite few minutes before replying to his message, agreeing that they could meet at a wine bar down the road from her in an hour’s time and then waited for him to reply.


Alan lay back and exhaled; it was always so good when his instincts proved correct and he picked someone who responded in the way he hoped. He messaged her back to agree to the location and time and then slid off the bed and walked to the wardrobe.

He picked out a black t-shirt and a grey jacket; nothing too fancy, nothing too showy. Smart but casual. He buckled a brown leather belt onto his faded jeans, ran a little gel through his air, and then patted aftershave either side of his neck. He was ready. He a good feeling about tonight; Helen seemed like she was going to be a lot of fun.


Helen arrived a few minutes early and took a seat with her back to the bar she should could look out for him and Alan walked in exactly on time. He was a little heavier set than in his photos, she guessed they must have been taken a few years earlier, but he was still attractive and when he saw her he smiled broadly and walked over.

“Well hello there,” he said, and she loved his accent, “I have to say, your photos really didn’t do you justice.”

She smiled, “Flattery will get you nowhere.”

“Really?” he asked

“Well,” she said, with a cheeky grin, “maybe somewhere...”


They had a few drinks, swapped pleasantries and made small talk and, to Alan’s surprise, he was finding this incredibly easy. Normally he had to work hard to make girls like him; he’d memorised a whole range of routines from books by pick-up artists and usually he had to employ a whole range of these in order to get girls interested. But not tonight; Helen genuinely seemed into him.

An advert for the Bond movie on the back of a magazine turned the conversation to 007 and it turned out that they were both huge fans of Bond. They agreed on their top two favourite Bonds (Craig and Connery), disagreed on Roger Moore (funny versus annoying) and spent half an hour trying to prove they knew more lines from the movies than the other. When Alan told her that he’d not been to a bar that served a decent vodka martini here in London, Helen was quick to tell him she made an excellent one and that he should come back to her place to check it out.

For a second he hesitated; normally there was no connection with the women he met, it was just soulless and mechanical and all about getting what he wanted. This was different; he realised he genuinely liked Helen and he wasn’t sure if he wanted this to go the way it always went, with him catching a plane tomorrow and not thinking of her again.

But then he looked at her, at her dark hair and green eyes, and he knew there was no way he could resist her.


They walked back up the road together, beneath a cloudless sky looking up at the stars and both trying to remember the name of the actor who played Jaws without googling him. Helen looked at him as they walked; he was handsome in an understated way and there was something about him; an instant connection of some kind.

She swore inwardly; what was she doing? She couldn’t afford to get attached, that was the whole point of this. She needed to stop romanticising what was only ever going to be a one night thing.

Reaching her apartment, she opened the door and beckoned him inside. She led him upstairs and pushed him down onto the sofa.

“Wait there,” she said, “I’ll go make those vodka martinis”


He watched her leave the room and closed his eyes, breathing deeply. He had never felt this conflicted before. Normally this was so easy for him, but tonight he was unsure he could go through with it. He toyed with the idea of just getting up and leaving, but it seemed wrong after having made all this effort.


Helen paused as she made the drinks, wondering whether she was doing the right thing before regaining her composure. Guys like this didn’t come along often and she should take advantage of it while she could.

She walked in and handed him the glass, sitting down beside him and resting one hand on his knee.

“So, you tell me that’s not the best vodka martini you’ve had in London.”

He drank it, and then half winced, half smiled. “That is awful.”

She laughed, “Most guys would have said they liked it even if they didn’t.”

“I’m not most guys,” he replied, turning to stare into her eyes.

“No,” she said, holding his gaze, “you’re really not.”

He leaned in and kissed her, and she didn’t resist.


They made love frantically, like animals; tearing each other’s clothes off and not even making it to the bedroom the first time. After the second time, they lay together in bed with her head on his chest and Alan looked at the ceiling.

This didn’t feel like all the other times. Usually by this point he had left; usually by this point he’d felt disappointed in himself, disappointed in them. But this time was different.

He didn’t want this to end. But he knew it had to.


Helen nestled her head against his chest and felt regretful; she realised that she couldn’t go through with this, she needed to tell him but she didn’t know how. After all, how do you tell a guy that you think he’s great, that he’s not like any of the other guys you’ve met, that you wish you hadn’t just poisoned him?

She sat up, looking out the window.

It was normally so easy; she met the sleazy guys from out of town – most of them cheating on their wives or girlfriends – and she lured them back to her place and she slipped them some medication that she stole from the pharmacy she worked at. In twelve to sixteen hours from when she gave it to them, it would cause them to go into a massive cardiac arrest. Of course, by then they’d be on a plane home and no one would ever suspect they’d been murdered. It was perfect; casual and perfect.

But tonight was different; she wished she’d never put it in his drink. There was a real connection between them, they had something. And it wasn’t too late, she could still tell him and get him to a hospital.

She turned to him.


He looked at the curve of her back as she looked out of the window and took a deep breath and when she finally turned to him he grabbed hold of her before she had a chance to say a word and pushed her down hard on the bed. She didn’t even have time to look confused before he pulled the pillow over her face and held it tight to her.

She writhed beneath him, arms kicking and legs flailing, but he held on tight as he always did and eventually she stopped and went completely still.

He stood up and realised he didn’t feel like he normally felt. He didn’t feel strong, he didn’t feel full of life and exhilaration. He felt like he’d done something wrong, he felt angry with himself.

He left her there and walked a mile or two before hailing a cab back to his hotel. Travelling for work like this gave him opportunities all round the world, and no one was ever going to put the pieces together because by the time anybody realised something was wrong he’d be a plane.

It had been a real shame about Helen, he thought. They'd really seemed to have a lot in common…

1 comment:

Elsa Garcia said...

Wow, Tinder is dangerous! Glad I am not into that tech ;p
Very cool Oliver, as always. You should publish a book!!!