The Art of Murder
Helen grabbed £20 from the petty cash box and handed it to Dave their regular delivery guy from Papa Mario's Pizzas.
‘Keep the change Dave,’ she knew that he was eyeing her up but other than that he didn’t register on her man scale. Taking the numerous boxes, Helen gave him one last smile.
'Enjoy the pizza Gorgeous,' Dave picked up his insulated pizza box.
'We always do,' Helen smiled at the compliment.
Dave hesitated. 'Is Ben here?' He peered into the gallery where Ben was just putting a bottle of wine on the table. Ben looked up and gave him a friendly wave which was ignored. Ben shrugged and opened the bottle.
‘We’ve been working late,’ Helen told him. ‘And we’ve both been working really hard.’
Dave’s frown deepened as he tried to work out if there was a hidden meaning buried in that.
‘You two seem to work late a lot.’
Helen forced herself to look serious. ‘It’s a very demanding job.’
‘But you just sell paintings,’ Dave shoved the money into his pocket. ‘You don’t even have to deliver them.’
‘Sometimes we do,’ Helen didn’t bother to add that that particular service was only for people spending an obscene amount of money.
Dave frowned and then pulled a small box out of his insulated carrier. ‘This is for you,’ he held it out. ‘But you’re not to share it with Ben.’
‘Absolutely,’ Helen carefully placed the box with the others. ‘Goodnight Dave.’ She smiled, quickly ushering him to the door before locking it. She didn’t have time to stand chatting while the pizza was getting cold.
‘Here.’ Helen handed the small box to Ben. ‘With love from Dave.’
Ben peeked inside noting the dark chocolate of the fudge cake. ‘You shouldn’t string him along, you know.'
‘I haven't done anything to encourage him,’ she opened a box of spiced chicken wings. It was now close to midnight and they hadn’t eaten anything other than a quick sandwich for lunch. The chicken wings tasted like heaven and the box was quickly emptied.
‘I get the feeling that he doesn’t like me,’ Ben had moved on to the pizza and let the flavours of his favourite pizza fill his mouth.
‘Who?’ Helen held her empty wine glass out for a refill.
‘Dave,’ he poured the last of the wine into her glass and stood up to fetch another bottle.
‘That’s because he thinks we’re having an affair.’
That stopped Ben in his tracks. ‘Why would he think that?’
‘I really wouldn’t know.’
Ben waited, one eyebrow raised.
‘Maybe,’ Helen continued, ‘it’s because it’s always late when we order pizza and we’re still at work. All alone.’
‘But how does he know that I’m here? You always order and pay for the pizzas.’
Helen looked guilty. ‘I might have mentioned that you were here.’
‘Besides he knows which pizza you like,’ Helen shrugged her shoulders dismissing the matter.
‘You should put him out of his misery,’ Ben headed to the back office. ‘Tell him that he’s never going to get a date,’ Ben opened the door and without putting the light on navigated his way to the large cupboard where they kept the bottles of wine and champagne to give to their VIP customers. Grabbing a bottle, he concluded that he would never understand Helen’s criteria for dating. Take Dave, for example, he seemed like a nice bloke. He was tall, obviously worked out and he knew that Helen found him ‘easy on the eye’ to quote her. He was obviously interested in her so why wouldn’t she go out with him? See if they had anything in common. Dave worked the nightshift at Papa Mario’s but that didn’t mean he wasn’t doing something more interesting during the day. Ben hesitated, before grabbing another bottle of wine concluding that he would never understand the mysteries of a woman's mind especially if it belonged to Helen. Still, that probably explained his current lack of a love life. On his way out, he hesitated and grabbed a bottle of champagne. Howard could worry about where all the bottles had gone.
‘I hate Howard,’ Helen declared hiccupping loudly as she shook the already empty bottle of champagne. Ben had never seen a bottle empty so quickly and he had only managed to get one glass.
‘Maybe he’s got problems at home,’ Ben tried to take the empty bottle away from Helen before she hurt herself. ‘He mentioned something about an argument with his girlfriend.’ Ben wasn’t quite sure why he was trying to defend him. He knew that Howard was a lazy good for nothing who was all too ready to steal other people’s sales and when you worked to a sales target that was no laughing matter.
‘I don’t care what his problems are,’ Helen held out her glass for a refill. ‘I still hate him.’
‘He’s the Gallery Manager,’ Ben grabbed a bottle of Merlot but that too was empty. ‘I don’t think we’re allowed to hate him.’
‘I can hate him if I want to,’ Helen pouted.
Ben struggled to his feet which no longer seemed to belong to him. ‘Another bottle?’
Helen nodded slowly as Ben disappeared to return quite some later with another bottle of champagne. Helen was leaning back on the sofa with her eyes shut.
‘Champagne!’ Ben announced loudly.
Helen sat bolt upright at the loud declaration but still managed to hold her glass out. Ben refilled their glasses and then plonked down on the sofa next to Helen thinking that he would stop after this last glass. It really was quite fascinating the way the little bubbles hugged the side of the glass and then let go drifting up to the surface only to … Helen nudged him and he tipped his glass over his trousers.
‘So…’ Helen hiccupped again. ‘What do you really think of all this?’
Ben wiped feebly at his damp trousers. He refilled his glass seeing as the last one didn’t count as he was now wearing it. 'All what?'
‘The art,’ she yawned loudly. 'The paintings.'
There was more frowning as Ben tried to work out what Helen was on about. 'I have a couple of favourites,' he admitted cautiously wondering where on earth Helen was going with all this. He hoped it wasn't anywhere complicated as he had had too much to drink but just to be sure he filled his glass again.