He's sitting at the piano as he often does. She thinks it's him. But this time he's naked and there's another draped across his lap. The dizziness takes effect as sharp dots of light dance before her eyes. She faints. Only the ringing in her ears prevents her from passing out on the cold floor. That and the pain now emanating from her forehead. It's incredulous. Like looking through a broken mirror into an alternate universe, she never suspected a thing.
She rights herself, walks over to the cupboard and grabs a glass, pours water from the tap and stares at the kid across the road mowing the lawn. Everything used to be normal. The afternoon light is fading and shadows dance against the kitchen wall, once playful, all she sees now are menacing shapes. His shape. Should she say something? She's scared to broach the subject since he's never given her cause to suspect he has a darker side, they're happy in their middle class life. It is . . .was . . perfect.
She stares once more at the baby grand in the picture and the two enamours, tempted to shred the prints. She doesn't. Right now she'd rather grab the Husqvarna hedge trimmer and metaphorically dismember the bastard. She stares at the envelope. There's a number on the back. Still feeling woosy, the bile rises in her throat as she dashes for the loo, hands on the black seat. She throws up. Wiping the moisture from her lips, she moves into the bathroom, rage making her tremor. Her skin prickles. She makes the decision to toughen up and ring the number. Fingers stumble as she dials. She catches a glimpse of her face in the mirror, hardened and tired, dark rings around her eyes, face holding back the tears. She hangs up before it rings.
Eyes still burning as if blinded by glare, she attempts another dial. This time, the other party answers. She's white steel as she introduces herself, "Hello? My name's Rebecca. You sent me some photographs,"
A throat clears on the end of the line, "Ahh . . ."
The voice is feminine, articulate despite the utterance of only one expression and she realises this is a road she doesn't want to travel. She's swimming upstream.
"Who are you?" she asks, visions of their lust in her head, the heady smell of freshly mown lawn and evening Jasmine wafting through the open window.
"A friend," declares the voice.
The hiss of sprinklers, serpent-like the voice on the phone bring renewed resolve, "Are you the other party?"
Hesitation. The silence on the phone makes her wonder if the voice is still there, "Yes . .I have something to tell you. Something you need to know."
She has a feeling that this conversation is going the way of a cheap mystery. The voice on the phone is less than revealing and getting answers becoming like pulling teeth.
"Why did you send them?" Clearly the other party is not interested in argument or discussion about their motive over the phone.
"Meet me." is all they say. She's cautious, still upset, her horoscope hadn't been kind today not that she believes in the thing but it did mention a revelation, a discovery. She agrees.
The voice on the end of the phone coughs, his breathing laboured. They make the appointment. Unbeknown to her the other party is ill, very ill, sallow, skeletal and close to death. In need of a confession. Heaven can't wait. There's a place there with their name on it and purging the soul before entering is mandatory.
He walks along fifth, a shadow of his former self. The rendezvous must be kept. The other must bear the pain of the cross rather than be discovered. Metaphorical stigmata, sacrificed. The house of Davis and all who reside in it are about to fall, it's a calamitous event, a career disaster and someone needs to pay the price. Here, it ends.
This time it's gone too far and the bitch wants him warts and all, wants him to leave his wife, his life or risk being exposed. Blackmail too black. He's dressed to kill and on his way to the hotel as he nonchalantly buttons the jacket to his Armani against the cooling evening breeze. Odd how the temperature drops. He wants to sate an appetite so demanding but tonight he needs to focus. Tonight he means business. The sky's darkening like an impending omen of doom and he raises his collar against the sudden southerly change. His iPod's playing Linkin Park's "What I've Done". He wishes he didn't have to do what intends to do. He wishes he hated the person he's about to meet. He wishes it would be easier. He wishes things were different. He wishes he was honest. But there's no room for blackmail in his life, for a jealous lover. His wife must never know. The truth is harder than the lie, she'd never understand and the other has begun to make demands beyond his ability to comply. Everything's at stake.
Their meetings were frequent and carefully timed as business trips or nights with the boys, unsuspicious to her but guilt ridden to him in places he barely remembers. Tonight he won't forget.
He walks through the door, an hour after his 'friend' who's flicking through the Gideons and agitated by his lateness. "You're late . . "
There's something outstandingly erotic about a naked body reading a bible, muscled curves, ripe for the taking. Purity added by donation. The room is gently lit with tea light candles and the shadows dance along the line of legs and the curve of a muscled body. Intoxicating. His suit is soon divested, buttons undone, fly released, the business attire dispelled, shed like a second skin as passion takes over and the Bible's slammed to the floor. The camera's on, this time stills and the constant click and interruption to the magic of the moment. He doesn't care. At the vinegar stroke, hand's clasp around a girlish throat as agony and ecstasy make it hard to distinguish pleasure from pain.
Strangling a lover is not as easy as he thought and flesh writhes as he strikes a blow and blood streams from his lover's nose. It's almost done. The camera clicks incessantly as bodies squirm but he has the upper hand, thumbs imprinted on jugular. Pain over and gasps done. There's a stillness in death and he almost wishes it was her but he needs her; she's the perfect foil and excuse, he doesn't need the now limp and lifeless soul beneath him. It's over. He wishes he'd thought it through and made it look more like a suicide. Covering his tracks is hard. He looks at the face once loved, now contorted in the grimace of death. How to disguise a murder? He should have planned it better, thought it through, now his fingerprints and DNA are there for evidence. Time to start a fire.
The answer is right in front of his face, a box of matches . . a lover's intent and candles lit before he arrived and so, disables the fire alarm. He builds a pyre of towels. Love, hate, shit, hard . . .his ability to put a sentence together overwhelmed by a desire to destroy evidence. He fans the flames.
The camera is quickly disassembled and all evidence of his 'bitch' tucked into the overnight bag of his victim. Smoke is enveloping. He's surprised at his ability to be so primal, so conniving, so controlled as he leaves, suited and carrying the filmic evidence in his bag. Easy. Too Easy. He's invincible even with blood on his hands. He's got away with it and despite his reservations he's feeling safe.
"Julien? Who's Julien," she asks.
"Your...my... one time partner. We were together for years until I got sick. He couldn't deal with it and left me for someone else. We stayed friendly. Kept in touch until last week. Remember that hotel fire?"
She nods in acknowledgment but is failing to comprehend, to join the dots.
"I wondered why Ju was even there," he continues, "Then I remembered that he'd given me this." He pulls a DVD, no label, from the satchel.
"What is it?" she's sitting upright now and paying close attention.
"It's Julien and..." He pauses for another cough, "...your husband. Sort of 'insurance' I guess in the event something went wrong. He had an idea that it might."
Her head's spinning again and the coloured lights flashing before her eyes. She takes a sip of mineral water and hands cover her face once again.
"My husband? Your lover? Together?"
He coughs, the rasp and pain in his chest reflected on his face, "Yes . . they were lovers. Ju left me for your husband. Straight guy with a lovely wife and an enviable life. Can you imagine?" Adam Tremble effeminate and dying from a broken heart and an incurable disease was once the epitome of gay beauty now deserted in his hours of need for a jock, a body. A man sitting on the sexual fence and enjoying the best of both worlds. Adam begins to cry.
She's tempted to be cruel after all it was this man who sent her the photographs and made her world tumble, fall, decline. But he's pathetic.
"I don't get it . ." a strange calmness affecting her, "He's my husband, we have sex, he's not gay." The very denial in her voice giving rise to doubts she'd never had. Those weekends away, evenings spent alone. Could this be true?
"I found jeans in my bottom drawer," she begins, " I thought they belonged to a woman." She was going to confront him about them but thought better of it. She's too shocked to cry, too stunned to move but takes the DVD and puts it in her handbag.
"Life stinks, I hope this gives you some closure." was all he said before he rose and said goodbye. "You won't see me again. Do what you want with the film."
"Jesus!" he calls to a colleague, "Take a look at this. This is who I think it is right?" The colleague smiles and nods.
"Defo . ." says the other man staring at Guy Davis in an overly compromising position - with another man. "That's gold mate, pure gold." The colleague takes a closer look and glances upward to the whiteboard, now covered with notes and photographs of a young dead man named Julian Orica. His body found burned and disfigured beyond recognition apart from one side of his face. He'd been identified by his dental records. "Hang on a minute, does that other guy look familiar to you?" He places a hand over the disfigured side of the photograph of Julien. The phone rings and a female's voice begins to pour venom over the line.
He throws the soft sports bag into the corner and passes her a cursory greeting kiss. She doesn't respond. She waits, bides her time, makes him coffee. The words tumble effortlessly and expressionlessly as he takes his first sip of the hot liquor.
"Who's Julien Orica?"
His eyes widen and he stares into his coffee and clears his throat. A flush of heat waves from his neck to his brow and his hands begin to shake, he grips the mug tightly to steady them. "Julien? I have no idea"
Again she steels herself, this time not teflon but concrete. She's reinforced, strong after her conversation with Julien's former lover.
"I had lunch yesterday" she begins, as she retrieves the yellow envelope from a spotless kitchen bench. "I met with a friend of Julien's, a former lover actually."
Guy raises his head wondering where this is going, the smugness he felt a week before now dissipating as his heart races and tiny beads of sweat form on his brow, blood drains from his face. His team knows, his coach knows and now . . his bloody wife is being weird, does she also know? If so, how much?
"Oh yeah?" His voice breaks.
"Guy, I have the photographs. I have a DVD," she's calm and unaccusatory, it makes him more than uncomfortable. She's normally neurotic, a screamer, a crier but not today. Today she's cruel and cool.
"I know what you did Guy. I know who he is. Where were you last Friday night? At the Clarion by any chance? Did you do something you shouldn't?"
He stands on liquid legs, his heart racing, "It's not what you think . . ." he begins but has no alibi, no excuse, no reason and contemplates grabbing her when two men, one in a crumpled suit, emerge from the family room.
"Mr Davis . . . we'd like to ask you a few questions about the disappearance of a Mr Julien Orica,"
Her resolve shows little more than a slightly bleeding heart as the man she loved, he loved is cuffed. "It's over . .we're over - you're over, finished." She fights back tears as he sinks to his knees. A career dissolved, a lover gone, a crime discovered . . once a hero, lauded and famed . . betrayed by a dead man, the dying lover and now, his wife.
Posted reluctantly for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Deathbed Revenge"