Tuesday, 15 July 2008
When he was safely back home, Michael had finally broken down.
All afternoon he had kept his feelings of terror under control. There was no way that he was going to break down in front of the police chief but the strain of playing the part of the grieving lover was getting to him. Walking along the identity parade he had briefly considered pointing out one of the men. After all it didn’t matter to him which one he chose because none of them were Sonny’s killer. The police officers made no pretence in hiding their disappointment that he hadn’t recognised their suspect. Time and again they kept saying that surely he must remember the face of the man who had murdered his boyfriend.
Lying on the settee Michael’s sobs slowly subsided as the anxiety he had felt all afternoon slowly ebbed away. Sure the police were annoyed when they had realised that they had arrested the wrong man but thinking about it rationally he knew that they were still no nearer to suspecting the truth. He had been very careful to play his part well and he knew that he had given them no reason to suspect that he had lied about the mysterious foreigner who had stopped them on that lonely stretch of road.
All he had to do was keep calm, stick to his story and let the police chase around looking for their next suspect.
Opening a new bottle of scotch Michael poured himself a large tumbler full. It was taking more and more scotch each night to stop the trembling in his hands. He knew that keeping busy meant that during the day he could block out the memory of Sonny’s screams but the nights were different. At night he remembered every detail. At night Sonny’s screams filled the room and he could smell the sickly sent of his warm blood pumping from the stab wound.
So now he drank and hoped that the whisky would help to blot out the memories.
As he tried to get up to refill his glass his legs refused to carry him upright. Michael realised that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast and he had been drinking on an empty stomach. Staggering across the room he stumbled and fell against the edge of the settee. His head was spinning as lent on the sofa to try and stand, as he stumbled forward he noticed Sonny’s wallet lying on the floor.
This didn’t make sense, what was it doing on the floor under the sofa. The last time he had seen it was when he had hurriedly stuffed behind the cushions. But there it was, the soft brown leather stained for ever with the blood of his dead lover. Confused, he bent to pick it up and holding the wallet against his cheek he could still smell Sonny’s cologne lingering in the leather.
The shrill ringing of the telephone made Michael jump and staggering across the room still clenching Sonny’s wallet he picked up the phone.
‘Michael is that you?’
‘Clara, what’s wrong?’
‘Oh my dear I’m so sorry to bother you but I didn’t know who to call. I feel such a fool but I’ve had a little accident.’
The effects of the whisky were slowly clearing as Michael answered ‘what’s happened. Are you hurt?’
‘I fell over the stupid rug in the hall and I think that I’ve broken my ankle. I can’t get up its swollen and very sore.’
‘Don’t move Clara. Stay where you are I’ll be right over.’
‘Thank you so much. I’m really sorry to bother you with this especially today of all days.’
‘Don’t be silly, that’s what friends are for.’
And that’s when it hit him. Standing in the lounge with the walls spinning around him Michael fell to his knees. It was Clara who had found the wallet. Dear God it couldn’t have been anybody else. She was the only person who had been in his house since the funeral. She knows, she knows that I’ve got Sonny’s wallet. The wallet that I told the police the murderer ran off with. But surely she can’t suspect anything not when she has just asked me to help?
With his mind whirling Michael grabbed his car keys from the hall table and staggered out of the house.
The night was hot with a threat of a summer storm filling the air. As he pulled up outside Clara house Michael was sweating and the cotton shirt he had been wearing all day was sticking to his back. Wiping the sweat from his face he made his way carefully up the steps to Clara’s front door.
Peering through the glass panel Michael could see Clara lying in the hallway. He tried the handle and realised that the door was locked.
‘Michael is that you?’ Clara called out
‘’Yes Cara but I can’t get in the door is locked.’
‘Come around the back, the kitchen door is open.’
Michael made his way through the narrow passageway between the houses and into the courtyard at the back of the townhouse. The kitchen door was wide open and Michael walked into the kitchen switching the light on so that he could find his way through the small room.
‘I’m so sorry but I didn’t know who to call.’ Said Clara as Michael walked through to the darkened hall.
Michael stood and looked at his friend lying on the brown tiled floor. With a sense of detachment that he wouldn’t have believed he was capable of six months ago, he saw that her left leg was twisted in an unnatural angle. Kneeling down he tenderly touched her swollen ankle.
A wave of agony shot through Clara’s leg and she could barely hold back the tears as she cried out in pain.
Seeing her lying there helpless and venerable Michael felt no pity for her only a burning rage that she had found the wallet. What kind of game was she playing? Why was she asking him for help when she knew his secret? Could it be that she was such a lonely old woman that his help was better than none? Leaning over her twisted body Michael whispered in her ear ‘Who have you told?’
‘Michael what are you talking about, what’s the matter? Please can you just help me get up?’ Clara was frightened, why was he acting this way, she didn’t know why he was so angry.
‘Don’t play games with me you silly old woman.’ He spat ‘I know that you found the wallet. Have you told the police, is that why they came round to the house this afternoon?’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. You told me that they had arrested somebody.’
‘But you and I both know that they had the wrong man don’t we.’ He growled
Clara looked up at Michael, his eyes were burning with fury and as his trembling hands moved to her neck she cried out. ‘No Michael please no……