The Oblivious Victims of Stephen McGuire

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The Oblivious Victims of Stephen McGuire (Suspense & Thriller, Young Writer Award 2023)
Award Category
Logline or Premise
In a world under extreme surveillance, we follow a lonely hit-man with a unique penchant for predicting people's behaviour, as he uses his savant-like skill to try and covertly murder a terrifyingly evil politician. All while struggling to deal with his attachment and co-dependency issues.
First 10 Pages

Chapter 1:

Death of A Hoarder

People are so fucking predictable, like celebrity relationships or photos from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Taking your kids to school, listening to the same three murder cases on the news, buying that on-sale microwave, so you can make your boring dinners even more boring. Wasting away on the double-shot vodka tonic that is life; the only thing to get excited about is a tax rebate, and the brief thought of plucking a string on that acoustic guitar gathering dust in the corner. Yeah, I know it’s a little early for bleak poetry, but I don’t get much sleep these days. I can’t distract myself well enough, no matter how many hours I spend watching vacuous housewives on TV or how far I work my way through my never-ending bookshelf. My uncle used to force me to read into the night to sharpen my attentiveness, in case of an early morning air raid. Now I can’t seem to shake the habit... And there’s fuck all else to do. Seems I too am becoming a part of the monotonous tribe, except less vodka tonic and more tequila sunrise–– topped off with rusty needle of heroin.

I see everyone as a bit like their own New York Times Bestseller. The pages waiting to be ruffled by a capitalist billionaire to sell you bottles of kettle descaler and morning after pills. The only other ones skimming the pages are knaves like myself— as well as the odd outcast and idiot savant. Most people are in 12pt Times New Roman with the covers wide open, a few are penned with alluring calligraphy but a padlock on each side. The rest are largely pictures or pop-ups with four letter-words scrawled in crayon. Take my neighbour Nathan, for example, pumping iron on the balcony opposite my flat and grunting like a gorilla mid-coitus. There’s a netball stadium next to our apartments, thanks to the popular demand of the fifty-plus colony inhabiting our council building’s lower levels. The girls train Thursdays at 7, and at 6:45 caked in chalk, drowning in his own muscle he exhibits himself, wandering out onto the balcony like he’s fucking pope Schwarzenegger. He looks down and shouts something along the lines of, ‘Hey girls, let’s see how you handle these balls!’ and they’d look back at him in disgust; doesn’t stop him from trying again the next week.

Nathan is the tourist handbook of human beings— by that I mean you could follow the veins on his body to the nearest motel, and you’ll often find him tucking himself into the pants of a foreign traveller. He’d parade on that balcony hooting his pelvis all day if he could, that’s if his girlfriend didn’t intervene. 6:57, she slaps him on the shoulder and forces him inside, usually with the promise of some of that gorilla-style coitus. They say cheaters never win… no, that’s not right. They say cheaters never prosper—come to think of it that’s not really true either. How about this for a saying? Cheaters never stop. And for a man facing 40 with a predatory appetite of his own, he turns rather hot under the collar bone when he hears Shannon’s phone ping paired with a little dirty smirk on her face. That’s his girlfriend. Talented kisser, poor choice in one-night-stands.

They moved in years before I did. An omniscient old lady outside the block told me that through one of the most hellish arguments the tower has ever survived, exploding from their pad. They have broken that record since then with any of the couple’s four subsequent fights. I’d rather be back on the streets of Moscow being shot at by Neo-Soviet roid-heads than trying to settle disagreements in that household. All they seem to argue about is their compulsive desire to score other slam pieces with big tits or shoulders the size of bowling balls. Before devolving into childish insults and ending with an ear-splitting smash. I first thought it was one lobbing a plate at the other’s head; it is in fact an exercise weight falling from the balcony and shattering a paving slab. It hits the same stone every time... And it will happen again, in 5 minutes and 21 seconds to be exact, hopefully it’s the last.

I started this contract a week ago, drinking alone at a party hosted by an under 25 social-media mogul. I had a carnal intimacy with Nathan’s girlfirend that night. Probably the best sex I’ve ever had, minus one occasion at a red-light cathouse. She was easy to please; I practically screamed my pickup at her over the thundering pulse of drum and bass, and it comprised of a single word.


“What?!” She returned the shriek.

“Hair! Curly!... it looks wild—in a good way! it’s good! I like it!”

“Er… Thanks! Do I know you?”

“No!” Awkward pause, not long before she excused herself to the bar. I had to beat her to it, I yelled, “You like Gin?!”

It’s her favourite.

“Yeah… I do!”

She smiled, and we continued our journey over a glass of Bombay on the rocks and smutty anecdotes before diving under the expensive silk sheets of our host. Sex is far more intoxicating when there’s an ulterior-motive— which brings me to the guy in this photo I’ve been holding for the past 20 minutes while sipping my Pinot Noir.

Let me introduce you to Ronan Wilkes. He lives in the same block as Nathan and Shannon, a state hoarder by trade. I remember a time when that used to mean that his house was a dump. A hoarder is a person the military hires to manipulate residents into signing away their freedoms, in return for a shiny white hat and a semi-automatic. A necessary evil, considering the lunkheads that currently season the front lines. Though, I understand why my client would skim his picture through the bottom of my door, with a gold slider. I may have twisted the arm of destiny on this one a little, but I’ll get to that later.

I typed out a text to Shannon that reads, ‘You have mesmerising knockers–– S.’ Ronan’s fate sealed by sleazy romance. It gives me a nefarious joy— like spitting in a child’s ice cream or booting an old man into a swimming pool. Should I add kisses? The notification ping is probably enough to get Nathan’s veins bulging, but where’s the harm in a little added authenticity?

A couple more seconds… send. And so the clock starts ticking— 4 minutes 43 and counting. Ronan would have just finished his round at the common. If I’m one second out, he’ll be on the wrong slab and that’s that. I’ll just have to put up with the gaping hole in my roof. I guess I could sleep with more blankets.

You know? I sometimes think I live in an anti-climactic, lazily written kitchen-sink drama. Beginning promisingly with a flash of glory and an explosion of colour. And some forty years on, I find myself with very little conflict and no goals. Realising I’ve been staring blankly at the same meaningless scene for several hours. Relationships drive you to that stage about twenty years earlier. Which is why I find them so easy to infiltrate.

Nathan and Shannon agreed to remove the passwords from their phones as prescribed by their ‘love doctor’ to become more trustworthy partners. At this time they’ll be slouching together watching a true-crime documentary (which are scarce these days). Her phone will ping, he’ll hulk it from her hands and read it, they argue; 4 minutes and 5 seconds later he punches the wall. The vibration causes the leg of his bench press to slip through a gap in the balcony. And like the five times prior, a 20 kg chunk of steel nosedives 100 feet to the ground. Except in this case, instead of hitting the paving slab, it will hit Ronan Wilkes on his way home, crumpling the poor sod. Provided he doesn’t stop to cuddle a cat or other out-of-character altruistic bullshit. Cheaters never learn is more accurate now that I think about it. Oh wait, here it comes… any… second… SCKRLPP!

Fuck, I think it worked, sounded wetter than the norm. At least I hope that was him, because that piss-stain of blood and mince of flesh next to a headless carcass doesn’t look easy to identify. Thankfully the uniform is a dead giveaway–– excuse the pun.

It feels like sometimes the best way to get you want in this city and not get caught wanting it, is via an act of God... Or through a secure internet server. You can’t arrest a guardian angel, nor can you pay one. Though, there’s practically a camera on every crack in the pavement, I’m sure they could catch angel Gabriel doing deeds of the Devil. As unlikely as it may seem, the last time I saw a private eye was an incident in 2044— nearly 30 years ago. Which means I’ve been doing this for exactly two decades. I should buy a bottle of Champagne or a pack of Marlboros to celebrate. Do they still make those?

Nathan and Shannon’s worst ever fortnight is soon to start, opening with a 6th hellish argument and ending in a trial for involuntary manslaughter. Beats sitting with your hand down your pants in an empty apartment watching reruns of Hell’s Kitchen. Wish I could have a glance into my future for a change, I’d love a fortnight of misery every once in a while. Tied to a chair and waterboarded under a lightbulb dangling from a string, or held at the edge of a tall building by my jacket, life and death separated by a man’s grip on my lapel. I can fantasise all I like, but my week starts with a knock on my apartment door, 48 seconds after I turned Ronan to bolognese.

It’s moments like these where having one of those spy holes would be useful. Following 3 minutes of caution and sliding locks, I open it to where the bolt will allow, revealing an expressionless older gentleman. Not an ounce of impatience on his pendulumlike eye-bags. Perhaps I could learn from this skullet, I bet he could sense my nerves from the moment he flashed his police badge in my face. I’m too confident in myself— I didn’t close the door and dive out of the window like a segment from an 80s cop show title sequence. Instead, I disconnected the chain and politely ushered him in with an obligatory offer to make him a cup of tea. He ritualistically declines, not saying a word. Not even a full minute since the death of the hoarder, that must be some kind of response time record. I know the police are good these days, but I didn’t realise they were that good. Am I a suspect? Apart from the picture resting on my balcony table, there’s no reason to… oh boy. Every pore on my skin opens like poking holes into a water balloon. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated this much in all my life. My beating heart was, albeit, grateful for his first words.

“You saw what happened?”

Thank fuck, I’m a witness. Unfortunately, as any mob bosses or primary school teachers I’ve ever interacted with would tell you… I’m a terrible liar.

With that in mind, I graced through my response with a simple, “Yeah.”

This guy’s eyes are piercing as shit. Like I’m already in the courtroom standing trail for leaving jalapeño pretzel pieces scattered across the carpet, or for the scent of my damp walls dyed-in-the-wool of my living room. What a shameful reason to go to jail that would be— crimes against personal hygiene. I know for a fact I’d be an outstanding detective, I’d sign up tomorrow if catching criminals wasn’t so drab. Not nearly as stem-winding as the TV makes it seem, the inspector standing on my spent floorboards is testament to that. The job has bone-dried him of all investment in living a day past 50. However, he sure is a master of suspense. From being in my house for over 6 minutes he leaves it until now to drop this fine bombshell:

“Mr McGuire, you’re under arrest for the attempted murder of Officer Wayfarer on 4th June. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court.”

I guess I’m not as good as I thought I was, or I would have seen that coming. I mean, I wasn’t exactly subtle when I created that aforementioned hole in my ceiling with a shotgun round and a thunderclap of adrenaline. The same thunderclap I’m using right now to beeline for the balcony, I’m four stories high— I’d suffer minor injuries if the dumpster’s lid is open. It also gives me a chance to get rid of that photo of Ronan.

Optimism doesn’t suit me, as a quick zip of pain in my shin and the momentum of my beeline sends me face-first into a more embarrassing reason to go to jail than a dirty carpet. Nailed by a sniper on the opposite block 10 floors up, I would kick myself for also not seeing that coming, but my leg is a bit fucked right now. Less than a second after I hit the ground, officer saggy cheeks is onto me like a starved leopard, cuffing me and picking me up with the strength of a hundred men.

If ever I wanted irrefutable proof that my life is part of a cruel, but subtly ironic, kitchen-sink drama, it is this. An officer of the law arriving at my apartment, 48 seconds after I indirectly pulped a hoarder, for something that happened 4 months ago. Now that’s a real coincidence.


Kirstie Long Mon, 14/08/2023 - 16:22

Whilst not really clear where the plot/story is going from these pages, it is an interesting start.