SUNDAY, SOMETIME BEFORE THE SUNRISE
Her head was throbbing with pain as she pried her eyes open with great difficulty. She was lying on a cold floor, her limbs feeling weak. She raised her head, despite her stiff neck, and found two men; one was lying still over the floor two feet from her, while the other lay perched over the bathtub with his bald-head resting against the wall. His eyes were open as if he was looking at the door, but they had no life in them. The white tiled floor was a bloody red around their bodies. She tried to raise herself, but could only manage to move away a little, before she lost consciousness again.
She hesitantly opened her lazy eyes to the sound of the alarm. The sunrays shone brightly over the bed. She felt the other half of the bed; it was warm. She raised her head and surveyed the cabin. She was the sole occupant of the cabin situated somewhere in the woods adjoining the beach. Martin wasn’t there; she felt a spark of contentment in her mind. She lay down her tiny feet on the floor and shuffled the short distance to the bathroom. On her way, she turned-on the radio, which turned her attention to the matter of child-trafficking in Fremia for sake of sexual purposes, and the involvement of some bigheads behind the scandal. The woman on the radio added about the investigation team’s promises to capture the perpetrators. The investigation team’s promise to arrest the perpetrators and the evidence of bigheads behind the scandal, in itself, sounded like a sarcastic contradiction. She turned the radio off, snickering over the contradiction.
Brushing her teeth, she reached for the bathtub curtain with her hand, but stopped midway and decided to use the shower instead; she straightened the curtain and let go. Gargling her mouth, she shot a quick glance at her sunken face, which had come to be so ever since her…
She looked down and stroked her belly before she stepped under the shower.
I wish the miscarriage hadn’t happened.
Locking the door behind her as she exited her cabin, she checked the time on her watch; it said 9.15 AM. The screen also displayed a message from Bernard Douglas. It read- 12.30 PM today, Charlotte Restaurant. Just reminding you. How could she, of all things, forget that appointment, or rather the date, with him? It was one of those things she had been looking forward to ever since she planned that trip with Martin Davidson, her husband. She just felt happy that he wasn’t with her to hinder her movements. With her handbag dangling from her forearm, she stepped into the blistering summer day.
Having completed her brief meeting with her friend, which had eventually longed for two long hours, she stepped into the crowded Charlotte Restaurant. As she stood in the enormous place swarming with people, she caught sight of Bernard Douglas seated at a far table. She fought her way through the crowd and finally made it to the table. Bernard recognized her and stood up to shake her hand.
‘Michelle,’ he said, shaking her hand. ‘You look even thinner than in your Facebook photos.’
With the formalities taken care of, they sat down. They struggled to spark a conversation, in contrast to the thousands of messages they had exchanged over the course of the previous four months they had been acquainted on Facebook. The struggle lasted but only for a minute, before he made a remark about her pearl necklace, and so it started. Bernard eventually steered the conversation towards the topic of her husband, which reminded her of her hungry stomach.
‘Why don’t we order some food, and then talk about my husband?’ she requested.
He nodded his head, ordered something for the both of them, and waited with his hands clasped together, gazing at her.
She realized that it was her turn to steer things and exhaled hard. ‘My husband is a Dr. Martin Davidson, a renowned Obstetrician in Kraminko, who was a widower when I met him seven years ago. I was an intern under him, which led to a love affair and finally ended with us tying the knot three years ago.
‘At the beginning, he was a decent man. But after I got pregnant last year, he started acting strange, or maybe I noticed him being strange for the first time. There had always been a talk in the hospital about him being a womanizer, but I had never really given it a deeper thought. However, things took a bad turn, when I found out from one of the new interns about how he had tried to molest her. When she had refused to co-operate, he attacked her and promised to ruin her career if she dared speak out about it. I decided to go face-to-face with him regarding the allegation, which was followed by a string of events involving him being a stubborn-ass and refusing to admit his mistake, me shouting over my lungs asking for the truth, him losing his patience and pushing me down a flight of stairs, and… me ending up with multiple fractures and a miscarriage.’
Bernard gave her a sympathetic look and touched her hand lightly. ‘I’m terribly sorry. I did not mean to make you recite this. I was just being curious.’
‘And, I was being over-emotional,’ she replied, trying to fight back tears. ‘You should’ve seen him explaining to the police about how he had warned me several times about running down the stairs with the four-months-old fetus, and how he had regretted not being there when I slipped and fell down the stairs.’
Her hand automatically returned to her belly, as if the recollection might bring back her child.
‘He must be a real ass to do such terrible things to such a beautiful lady. So, is he here now?’
She wiped off her tears and replied, ‘I don’t know. I did not find him when I woke up in the morning. In fact, I even walked out on him last night for a couple of hours following another of our stupid quarrels. The miscarriage has really messed up our relationship. I’ve started feeling lonely and depressed. He doesn’t talk to me much, and I hate the sight of him. We intended to make things right when we planned this trip. But it doesn’t seem to go in that direction.’
‘Does he know about our meeting here?’ Bernard asked.
‘He has no need to know anything about us,’ she replied, shrugging her shoulders.
He managed a giggle and nodded approvingly. Bernard followed with the details of his life about being a thirty-five year old bachelor, the son of one of the richest men in Sylvinkeria, an entrepreneur with a taste for automobiles, as if she hadn’t heard about it during their Facebook conversations. He specially emphasized his active role in the maintenance of SS Group of Orphanages, which he believed would create a positive impression. She listened patiently to his bragging, but never going five minutes without stealing a glance at her watch.
He noticed it and stopped midway. ‘Am I boring you? I noticed you taking multiple glances at your watch.’
‘It is nothing like that. It’s an inevitable trait of mine,’ she muttered, stealing yet another glance at her watch. It showed 2.15 PM. She counted the number of hours till nine, and tried to slowdown her racing pulse.
The lunch was followed by a stroll through the woods and the beach, an early evening dinner at yet another multi-cuisine restaurant, and finally a stop at a local bar. Bernard helped himself to multiple beers, while Michelle downed glass after glass of orange juice. At 8.45 PM, they decided that they had had enough, and stepped out of the bar. Michelle carried a half-full glass of orange juice, while Bernard carried a bottle of beer for himself. They stood facing each other in the dim light of the night, pondering over what to say.
Before Bernard could say anything, Michelle said, ‘Let us go to my cabin.’
Bernard was left at a loss of words, her remark having hit him out of the blue. Before he could speak up, she grabbed his wrist and jogged in the direction of the woods.
‘But what about your husband? Won’t… he be there?’ he stammered, gasping for breath.
‘I believe he is out there somewhere, trying to grab the attention of some woman. Even if he’s in the cabin, we’d see.’
Bernard’s inebriated state gave way to a tiny speck of excitement as the idea of such an encounter crossed his mind. He mustered up the energy to keep in pace with her, as she dragged him amidst the woods.
She is so strong for her tiny frame.
Michelle took a quick glance at her watch, which announced 8.55 PM.
Just about the right time.
She rummaged through her handbag for the keys, with Bernard behind her waiting for her to unlock the door. He wondered where his bodyguards must have been wandering, ever since he ordered them off that morning. He texted his security chief to wait at the guest-house for him. She finally unlocked the door and allowed him to enter the cabin. She locked the door behind her and placed her handbag and the juice on the table beside the door.
‘Fortunately, seems like your husband isn’t back,’ Bernard announced.
‘Yeah,’ she muttered, stretching her tired body. You have got a lot more to do, a voice teased in her mind. ‘Why don’t you make yourself at home while I use the bathroom?’
Bernard sauntered around the cabin, while Michelle walked into the bathroom. Within a minute, she let out a wild scream, which shook him off balance, and he ran into the bathroom to see what it was.
He felt the discomfort take hold of him slowly as he came back to his senses. He tried to move a limb or two, but they were tied together. He forced his eyes open, only to find himself lying in a bathtub with his arms behind his back wrapped with a towel and secured with a tape around it; his legs were in no different state. He found an indwelling catheter connecting his urethra to the bathtub’s drain. He tried to let out a scream, but the cloth gagged into his mouth only worsened the scenario. He felt nauseated and feared he might choke on his own vomit. For a moment, he wished he was in a nightmare. He closed his eyes and knocked his head against the ceramic wall of the bathtub to wake up from the nightmare, but only in vain. He tried to free his limbs of the things binding them together, only to lose his energy in a vain attempt. He gave up his struggle and tried to think of what had brought upon him such a plight. The last recollection he had was of having a quarrel with his wife, Michelle, followed by a cold shower, and then downing an entire bottle of wine. He tried thinking past that, but he had no recollection of anything that followed until he woke up in that bathtub. The curtain was drawn, blocking the view of the rest of the place and his claustrophobia tried to get the better part of him.
He had lost count of the number of hours he had laid there fighting his phobia, when he heard a door open somewhere nearby, followed by a man quoting about the serendipity of a husband’s absence. Then, a woman’s voice, which he recognized as Michelle’s, said something about using the bathroom. The door opened, and he heard footsteps as she approached the bathtub and withdrew the curtain. She let out a scream, which shook him in the tiny space.
‘Martin, what the hell has happened to you?’ she exclaimed, reaching for the cloth gagging him.
Once she removed it, Martin felt a sudden elation as his mouth relaxed. He tried to speak, but his jaws ached, and he lay there as she tried to free him. Someone came from behind her and yelled, ‘who’s this?’
‘Bernard, it’s my husband. Someone left him here in this state. Get me something to cut this tape!’ She yelled, desperately trying to tear the tapes.
He obeyed without any further questions and came back with a scissor, which he used to free Martin, and helped him sit on the edge of the bathtub. Martin’s head started reeling with the many questions that took shape, and the nausea returned suddenly. He got up and tried to throw up in the toilet. Having failed to emit anything, he withdrew from the toilet, and found Bernard holding Michelle’s arms and trying to console her.
‘You… bitch!’ Martin yelled. ‘Is he your new… boyfriend?’ She tried to defend herself. But he silenced her. ‘Don’t you bullshit me! Was that you who did this to me?’
He raised from the floor with a bit of difficulty and faced her. The man tried to intervene, and Martin shoved him away wildly towards the door. He slapped her, which sent her flying exaggeratedly to the wall, and she banged her head face-first into the wall. Martin watched as she slumped to the floor and spit out a tooth and some blood into her palm. Before he could take it in, Bernard ran towards him, driving his shoulder into Martin’s belly and yanked him backward. Martin’s tiny frame was no match to Bernard’s heavy blow; it sent Martin off his feet and left him hitting the back of his bald-head against the shower valve of the bathtub. Bernard watched in horror as Martin stopped moving following the impact.
He turned around when he heard Michelle call his name, only to find her thrust a scissor in his belly. Before his adrenaline could get the better of him, she thrust it again into his carotids. She yanked him backward and stepped back, as he slumped to the ground. As blood formed a pool around him, he tried to raise and go for help. But he was too weak to move. As death became certain for him, he saw her face appear above him.
‘Remember all those kids from your orphanage, who were the victims of your child trafficking scandal, you bighead bastard!’
Michelle danced her way out of the bathroom, took out a packet of ketamine powder from her handbag and emptied it into her orange juice. She dipped her lost tooth in the juice and placed it on the floor beside the washbasin. She moved about sipping the orange juice, as she got rid of the torn tapes, the catheter and the towels lying beside the bathtub. Once she got rid of all the evidence that could suggest a pre-planned murder, she got back into the bathroom and lay on her back two feet from Bernard’s body and waited for the ketamine to kick in.
AFTER A FEW HOURS
She opened her bleary eyes as she felt a sudden warmth over her face. She stood up with great difficulty, fighting the giddiness and reached for her cellphone to dial the emergency services. As she heard the ring, her mind went back to how she had planned everything that had unfolded the previous day.
On the night of the quarrel, she had left the cabin in the middle of the quarrel and returned back silently using her key once she was sure Martin was in the shower. She knew that it was his usual to have a shower before settling in to drink; he was a dipsomaniac after all. She mixed his wine with the right quantity of gamma-hydroxybutyrate, and left to a restaurant. The knockout drug had done its job. She came back later and had bound his limbs together, before carrying him into the bathtub.
As for Bernard, whom she had met on Facebook a few months back, she had learned from her friend, an obstetrician in a hospital in Silvinkeria, about how an eight-year old girl was once brought by the police from his orphanage with suspicion of rape. The girl was indeed raped, and Bernard had bribed everyone from the OBG Department Head to the police to cover-up his part in the child-trafficking scandal.
That was when she decided to lure both the men to a common place, ultimately ending in a bloody face-off.
‘Hello, what’s your emergency?’ a voice asked on the other side.
‘Excuse me, I need to report a murder,’ she replied with a trembling voice.
‘Could you explain yourself?’
‘Last night, I returned to my cabin with a male friend from a restaurant and my husband was already here. He thought I was having an affair with this man and made a big deal out of it. My husband assaulted me. He and my friend fought about it, and unfortunately my friend killed my husband,’ she said, breaking into a crying fit. ‘But… my friend tried to exploit my vulnerable state… and I had to stab him to defend myself. He seemed to have mixed something in my drink, since I lost consciousness immediately after that and woke up this morning.’ She continued her exaggerated sobbing.
‘Could you tell me your whereabouts, ma’am?’
She gave the operator the details of her whereabouts, as she recollected her previous experiences from a police investigation, when they had come to ask her about the accidental fall of her drunkard-abusive father down a flight of stairs.