Mrs Holden shuffled slowly up the carpeted hallway towards her front door. Her coarse, wrinkled hands shook slightly as she secured the chain and unlocked it, before allowing a thin shaft of light to penetrate the stale atmosphere of the house. Framed by the light was a young, smiling face.
"Hello there Mrs Holden" said the man.
She squinted in anticipation of recognition but it did not come. The man who stood facing her was tall and well-built with a youthful looking smooth face, the quick darting eyes suggested a keen mind and the footery body language betrayed the man´s nervousness. He wore blue overalls and held a clipboard.
"Who are you?" asked a puzzled Mrs Holden.
"I´ve come to read the meter" he replied.
She watched the man closely as he said this, his eyes rolled around like two ping pong balls in a washing machine on the spin cycle. This man was lying, he had no obvious identification and was clearly nervous. Besides, she thought, the man was round to read the meter not two weeks ago.
"May I come in?" he asked stepping forward very slightly.
Mrs Holden stepped back and closed the door. She stood silently for a moment, thinking it over, before slipping the chain back and re-opening the door, all the way this time.
"Of course, come in" she said jovially, beckoning the man to enter with her right hand as the left held open the door.
The man looked pleased and entered immediately, brushing past her as he did so and causing a nervous shudder to rack her body. He gazed around at everything, taking in his surroundings, he resembled a small bewildered child lost in a strange house. Mrs Holden led him through towards the kitchen, stopping at the door, which belonged to the cupboard under the stairs.
"The meter is in there" she said quietly, "Would you like a cup of tea?"
"Yes please" said the man, "Milk and two sugars thanks".
Mrs Holden slipped into the kitchen and poured a cup from the teapot. The tea was dark, it had been brewing for some time. She added the milk and sugar carefully, trying desperately to control her shaking hands, which were worsened by the mixture of nervousness and excitement she was feeling. After stirring the mixture with a long teaspoon she reached into the cupboard under the sink for an extra special ingredient.
"Here we are" she smiled cheerfully, handing the man a steaming green mug with a picture of a frog on it.
"Ta very much" he replied, carefully taking the mug from her and readjusting it so as to hold it by the handle.
Mrs Holden watched as the man slurped down some of the stewed tea. She felt a thrill, an echo of youthful excitement and could not suppress a slight grin at the thought of how clever she´d been. Her friend Peggy had been robbed by one of these charlatans. He too had been posing as the meter man and on the pretence of reading her meter had cleaned out most of her jewellery and a few expensive ornaments. She had made the mistake of trying to stop him, poor Peggy. The man had beaten her black and blue. She had gone into an old folk's home after that, scared to live in her own house any longer.
Well this time the filthy criminal would not get away with it, she would see to that. This man could even be the same one who had attacked Peggy. The thought appealed as she stood watching him willing the drink to take effect. He already looked confused and unsteady on his feet.
It did not take long for the man to collapse, spilling the remainder of his tea onto the flower patterned carpet. Mrs Holden watched in silence as he clutched at his throat and jerked around quite violently before losing consciousness. She went back through to the kitchen and got a cloth to wipe up the tea. She then cleaned the mug and washed the cloth, removing all traces of her sneaky act. All that is, except for the body.
She looked down at him inquisitively, his dead uncomprehending eyes stared back up at her and there were small flecks of blood on his lips. Mrs Holden fetched the bin bags and wrapped up the body the best she could before rolling it down the stairs to the cellar. She ascended the stairs back up into the house slowly and carefully, her legs protesting against the climb, aching with a fierce dullness. Upon reaching the hall she turned and closed the cellar door behind her before locking it securely.
Smiling to herself again, she shuffled through to the kitchen, pleased with the morning's work. After pouring herself a cup of tea she settled down on the sofa just in time to watch This Morning. She hoped there would be no further interruptions to her day.