The Perfect Set-up – a short story

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Evading and disabling the cameras was easy. Fusing the external elevator control panel, after climbing in through the inspection hatch, simple. In this job you need a good head for heights, but since I had one, walking along the ledge thirty storeys up, cutting a hole in the glass and using mirrors to deflect the beams went as expected.

What was not expected was lowering myself carefully into the office only to find Mr Danvers slumped over in his car in front of the safe, blood pooling under him, and my employer holding a gun.

“Right on time.” Willis smirked, pointing the gun at me. I froze as he tossed a folder across the room. “Pick it up.”

“No.” Did he think I was stupid? I wasn’t touching anything at a crime scene. He shrugged.

“You’re wearing gloves anyway. Security Consultant gone bad. The police will love it.” I paused, staring at his smug grin. The pieces fell into place quickly. It was a set up, he wanted me to take the fall for his murder, and now I had to get myself out of it.

“I have your signed disclaimer and permission.” I stated, testing him.

“Forged.” He replied simply.

“Why? I’ve no motive.” He had already committed the murder, so reasoning with him wouldn’t work, but I needed to buy time to check my options. Even if I had the chance to get to the window, thirty storeys up against a murderer with a gun left me with little chance of reaching the ground alive. There had to be another way out.

“Cash, bonds, there are some in the safe, and on the floor.” As he gestured I inched forward slightly. He did not notice. The way he was holding the gun made it clear he was an amateur, but even amateurs get lucky sometimes. Ironically my best chance to survive was to get closer to a gun, the last thing I usually wanted to do.

“Applies to you as well doesn’t it?” I said, to keep him distracted and to gather information. Anything I could learn might help.

“Of course not – they were my bonus. In the safe for safekeeping.” He grinned at his own cleverness and I sidled forward again. “Of course, with him gone I’m the only person who knows how everything runs around here, so the board will listen to me. But nothing concrete gained, at least not for a few years.” I risked another step as he looked away slightly. Amateur indeed. “Of course, with your record, you’re a different matter.” He looked back at the wrong moment and gestured sharply with the gun, his smile vanishing. I stopped dead, staring down the muzzle. “The police can always find two corpses.” He added coldly. I raised my hands, surreptiously looking for something I could grab or throw. Beyond him Danvers’ corpse was slumped over, head between its legs. The blood dripped slowly to the floor, and the huge exit wound in his back made it obvious he had been shot from close range. I could not see clearly enough to check, but I hoped it had been quick. Someone shot badly could linger for days.

“I take it, I’m the fall guy.” I had to keep Willis talking. He seemed to enjoy telling me his plan, and he was right about my record. A misspent youth, with everything from robbery to safecracking to one count of manslaughter, would make this set up all too believable to the courts. It was the last that had turned me round. No matter what I did I would never be able to forget I had killed someone, and the slumped figure that had been Mr Danvers brought back too many memories. “Why not just shoot me?”

“Alive, with your record and an eye witness, they won’t be looking for anyone else. With two corpses my testimony is suspect.” He was smart, I would give him that, but not smart enough to resist gloating in front of a captive audience.

“A nice set up.” He inclined his head slightly, preening. A moments thought and I knew there was nothing in the room I could use that would exonerate myself. “But how do you explain the gun?” His eyes flickered downwards and I inched forward again. A huge risk, but one I had to take. Texas still had the death penalty for murder, and I knew I had to get that gun away from Willis. As if he knew what I was thinking, Willis stepped back, snatching a glance at his watch. He hit the security buzzer on the desk while I was still too far away for a grab. The door opened almost instantly. They must have been waiting.

“Why did you shoot Mr Danvers?” I shouted trying to create doubt, as two police officers rushed in. Willis screamed at them to arrest me, and given the choice between the businessman in a suit and the burglar in dark clothes, tools clearly visible, they followed his directions. I gave him grudging credit for a thorough frame job. The officer cuffed me, and I complied for now. The odds were too high to fight, and I just wanted to get away from the gun. Hopefully I could find some evidence my employer had not thought to remove. The other officer looked at the sobbing Willis, as he collapsed into a chair, the gun clutched loosely in one hand.

“I came in, and he was here… and Mike… Oh god… he was like a father to me.” I shook my head in disbelief. Willis was no actor, but the police were buying it, hook, line and sinker. “The gun was on the desk and he had his head in the safe. I sneaked up and grabbed it. Then I hit the buzzer.” I froze. His story was all too plausible and the gloves I wore for work explained why there were no fingerprints on the murder weapon. I’d turned the cameras off myself at the start of my work, so there was no video to dispute his statement. The police officer gave me a disgusted look, but if he said anything his words were drowned out by Willis’ increasingly noisy sobs. Shaking his head, the officer went across to the corpse. He crouched by the body for a few moments, pulling at the jacket, closely examining the neck and head and finally slowly straightened up. Willis’ sobs were becoming distracting, as I desperately tried to think of ways out of this mess.

“Is he…?” Willis quavered and the officer shook his head, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket. My mind was racing, trying to find something that could prove my innocence. To my great frustration, I’d disabled most of them myself.

“I’m sorry. If you’ll excuse me sir, we’ll need that for evidence.” The officer cut in gently, gesturing to the murder weapon. Willis surrendered the gun, which the officer wrapped in the handkerchief and laid gingerly to one side. “Could you check the safe to make sure nothing further is missing?” As Willis stood up, the officer reached down to help him. There was a sharp snap of metal and abruptly the officer spun my employer round, cuffing his hands behind his back hard.

“You’re a lousy shot, Mr Willis. Bill, call an ambulance. Danvers isn’t dead.”

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