A short story inspired from when I was an archer and shot every Sunday. Fortunately there weren’t many Phil’s, although they did exist. 😉
Most archers were supportive of newcomers; Phil wasn’t one of them. He was the sort of person I normally tried to avoid whenever possible. His sharp tongue complained about everything, and he was a terrible looser.
‘This is ridiculous,’ was his usual moan. ‘Whoever decided to put these amateurs on the same target as someone with my skills has no idea. How do they expect me to concentrate when they’re fluffing around not even hitting the target, and waste time finding their arrows in the grass?’
Supposedly he had never been a novice who needed a bit of guidance, and encouragement. The others were supportive, praising the beginners when they hit the target, even if it was on the pinafore where it wouldn’t score.
‘Well done. Now just adjust your sight down a bit and you’ll be fine.’
The shoot I remember most was one I almost didn’t attend. The standard was very high and I didn’t want to show myself up. Eventually I was persuaded by the other members, who thought I had a good chance of winning a handicap medal.
Trust my luck. I was on the same target as Phil. I nearly gave up, but for the sake of my club mates decided to stick it out. Actually, it turned into a good day. The others on our target were a pleasant young newcomer, two supportive, experienced archers, and Jack, who was a similar standard to mine. He was also good fun, so it turned into a friendly competition between the two of us.
We were neck and neck until the final three arrows, when he had a bad set and I had a good one. He was the first to congratulate me, and I looked forward to meeting him again for a return match. Phil wasn’t interested in our rivalry, and barely spoke to either of us, as we posed no threat. At the prize giving afterwards, Jack and I sat together as we waited for the results.
‘No surprises for the championship cup. Congratulations Phil.’
He walked up to the table and accepted the award with his usual dour face, to a polite round of applause.
The announcement that I had won first prize in the handicap class, with Jack close behind in second place, was greeted with much more enthusiasm and we were both delighted with our achievements.
‘I’ll just pack my stuff up and take it back to the car, then I’ll meet you in the bar for a celebratory drink,’ Jack told me. ‘As the loser, I’m paying.’
‘Fine, but if you beat me next time the drinks are on me,’ I replied.
‘You’re on. See you in a bit.’
Enjoying each other’s company, and the passing good wishes of our fellow competitors, we didn’t even give a thought to Phil, the actual champion. At least, not until a few hours later when we saw the flashing lights of the police cars, and the ambulance drawing up in the car park of the sports ground.
Intrigued as to what was going on, we had no idea we would be involved until two constables came into the clubhouse, and started taking the names and addresses of everyone present. Phil had been murdered; his body discovered in the nearby woods by someone walking their dog.
As the last people to have seen the victim, Jack and I were the first to be interviewed. The questions were bewildering.
‘How well did you know Phil? Did he have any enemies? When did you last see him? How did you feel about him beating you in the competition?’
Although we were interviewed separately, comparing notes afterwards we found we had both been asked the same questions. It didn’t go down well when Jack had jokingly said that Phil wasn’t popular, and made enemies of everyone. After that, he was interrogated as if he was Public Enemy Number One.
Surprisingly there was no mention in either the national press or the local rag, and gradually everyone stopped talking about it. The next time I saw Jack we were at a competition but on different targets. Comparing results afterwards, we discovered he had beaten me by one point, so I had to honour my promise and buy him a drink. After that it became a regular thing, and honours were even when Jack asked me out on a formal date.
We became an item, and even though I hadn’t known him for very long, when he asked me to marry him, I said yes. After a wonderful honeymoon, we came back and started setting up home together. Jack went back to work, and I reduced my hours to part time, which was why I was there to answer the knock on the door one Thursday afternoon.
The questions asked by the two detectives were worrying.
‘Where is your husband now? How long have you known him? How long have you been married? What does he do for a living? Are you aware that a wife can’t give evidence against her own husband unless they are divorced?’
Divorced! We had only been married 3 months.
When Jack returned they formally charged him with Phil’s murder. At first, I was convinced it was all a big mistake. While he was on remand I went to see him in prison. If my wedding day had been the best of my life, this was probably the worst. I had no idea of the humiliation visitors had to suffer to visit their loved ones. What happened to innocent until proved guilty?
Despite that, I loved my husband, and put up with the mortification just for a chance to talk to him. I didn’t have a lot of savings, but was determined that every penny I had would be spent on proving his innocence. One day I went to see him as usual, and he seemed unnaturally subdued. I assumed he was just depressed from being locked up, and tried my best to cheer him up.
‘I need to tell you something, but you do realise that as my wife it won’t be admissible as evidence?’
‘What on earth are you talking about? You know I’m here for you.’
‘OK. You know I pleaded not guilty, but I lied. I killed Phil.’
‘You’re crazy. You were with me at the bar, buying me a drink, so it couldn’t have been you. What made you say such a thing?’
‘I know that’s what you told the police but you forgot we split up for a while when you went to put your gear away. I just chucked mine in the car, shot him, then rushed back to the bar so you could provide my alibi.’
‘I don’t understand. I know Phil was a prat but I can’t believe you murdered him.’
‘We were business partners. We had a good thing going until he got too greedy. I’m not talking about a few spliffs and rapped knuckles if we were caught supplying. The stuff we handled would have meant a serious stretch. You provided the perfect cover so it was good insurance to marry you. Now you know the truth you could be charged as an accessory if you try to change your story.’
I was devastated. All this time I had believed in his innocence, and supported him all the way. Now it seemed as if he had never loved me, just wanted to protect himself by using the law to his advantage.
Can you blame me for filing for divorce?
By the day of his trial I was no longer his wife so was free to give my statement. Free to confirm the exact time he had met me in the bar on that fateful day. Free to destroy his alibi.
After my evidence he was found guilty, and given a 25-year sentence. By the time he gets parole I doubt he’ll have the incentive to start shooting again, guns or arrows. I’ll leave him to decide if I was a poor loser or a woman scorned.
© Voinks August 2017
Author of the following books. All available on Amazon