Published:  01:03 AM, 08 November 2018

The swimmer

The swimmer

Mark Stroppiana

It was not a good place to do business. Too open, too many people, too many things to go wrong. His business was better conducted in the shadows late at night, not in the morning at public baths. He scanned for security cameras but none faced the water or intersected his entry or exit.

Given the hour, nobody was taking pictures with mobile phones. There were just a couple of early risers here for their daily swim. It's an odd masquerade he was part of in a strange town; swimming in the morning and planning to kill. Jessup knew what he was; he had no difficulty sleeping at night.

The morning was overcast and light rain hung in the air. The water colour was a deep and sinister green and blue against the dark concrete floor. Swimming and Jessup had never connected; it never made sense to him, staring at the black line on the bottom. Boxing and running were responsible for his lean physique. But now in his mid-40s he and swimming were united, uneasy bedfellows in the execution of a unworthy pursuit.

Jessup never concerned himself with the motivation of his clients: the turn of events that had transformed a relationship from declaring your love for one another in the presence of family and friends, to conversations with an intermediary planning your wife's murder.

It's a long journey for any relationship to take but it's a journey which ends with Jessup sitting on a bench by the ocean observing his victim's routine. Death is something that will visit us all but this early appointment for the swimmer is entirely in someone else's hands.

Her routine was unremarkable. She arrived at 6am, parked on the hill overlooking the baths and made her way down the concrete stairs. She carried a thatched bag with a red, white and blue towel partially visible from the opening as if it was observing the steady walk.

She hit the water with little fanfare, did not even test the temperate prior to diving in. She was all business, and the business was her morning swim, her time to escape and indulge her passion, a rhythmic 40-minute dance with the water.

She moved with a steady athletic stroke like someone who had swum for exercise all their life. How could she know that among the familiar faces, he was planning to make this swim her last? She would rest forever in the water amid this rock and concrete monument that trespassed upon both the beach and the ocean.

As Jessup watched her swim he thought about what he had forever lost. He was unable to stick to a routine; he avoided regular and consistent patterns, which might give police or others the opportunity to tail him. He liked the idea of being a ghost, unknown to the police and his clients; he did his job and moved on without attracting suspicion.

His was a solo life - no dependants, no friends - and he was concerned only with protecting his own skin. He did what he did for money and was comfortable that when his number was up, which would likely be in violent and unexpected circumstances, there would be no accounting for his actions beyond the grave.

He hit the water which was colder then he expected. His first strokes were brisk and awkward. He was 25 metres behind and she was faster than him.She tumble turned and was heading towards him, oblivious to the intention of her fellow swimmer in the next lane. Their bodies passed; just over a metre separated them and yet he resisted the urge to drag her to the bottom's unforgiving concrete floor.

They approached for a second time, his eyes peering through the green tint and seawater at the bottom of his goggles. He recognized her white swimmers, her athletic stroke. Their bodies passed and Jessup dove underneath her, plunging the syringe into a lean thigh. The paralyzing injection had an immediate effect.

She felt the sharp pain radiating from her thigh; her arms lost their stroke, her body became heavy and she was sinking. She was conscious of, but could not resist, the rough concrete floor embracing her. Her limp body does not respond to her her rage and desire to rise to the surface for a precious gasp of air.

Jessup continued swimming towards the edge, the used syringe grasped in a clenched fist. He rose from the pool, like evil springing from a poisoned well. His broad shoulders hoisted him out of the water. He moved swiftly, putting on a jacket, hoodie, and sunglasses, the towel wrapped around his shoulders.

He made his way to the base of the concrete stairs and started to climb, avoiding eye contact with the morning walkers and swimmers heading towards the baths' grieving waters.Jessup reached the top of the stairs but did not look back. He knew he would never return to this place. He continued to walk briskly towards the rented car. He drove away, putting distance between himself and the lifeless body at the bottom of the baths.

Mark Stroppiana is an Australian writer

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