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EDVARD TUSK: without his face

[Part 12]

No other clothing in the room, I stood and regarded myself in the mirror, tugging at sleeves, shirt front, closing coat, letting it hang open, scrunching toes in my shoes, a pointless teeter-tottering of time waste. It could be - I thought this to myself as I stripped naked, suddenly wanting to at least soak the clothing in shower water to (what?) unify the appearance- that I rather hoped the authorities would show up, that some other guest had lodged a complaint about the noise, had suspected violence (not the violence that would be found, but enough), that police would enter the room, guns drawn down on me, officers hoisting me into a car, shuttering me in a cell where I could feel properly secure, catch my breath.

But no police were coming. Nor (this had really never been a worry, it occurred to me, though that it had not did seem odd) was there any assailant going to return, a boogey-man figure who had abducted me from my own room and brought me to this. In fact, for the time being (I kept thinking some scent was a suggestion of sunrise having arrived, but peeks out the curtain showed a still thick middle-of-the-night everywhere) nothing at all would happen. Calm got over me as I realised my appearance didn’t matter: this was just some no place motel and all I needed to do was walk, shrouded in nighttime, from this room to mine, close myself in, and…

What?

“Escape,” I said, testing it and went chill when the word sounded as desperate as I knew I was beneath my numb. Everything inside my head cracked, my head welled up in an ache that some sort of shock must have been keeping at bay, I whirled in place, eyes (feeling bloated with blood practically water-logging its way out through the gloss of the surfaces) whizzed past this wall, that, the television, the bathroom mirror, the bedcovers (her body, no, yes, no) until I found myself panting, eyes turned down to the room telephone.

Police

I needed to call the police. What in hell was I playing at, thinking of escape, disguise, of shrinking away as though nothing had happened? Something had happened to me - something had been done to me - I was not in any position that I needed to hide.

Call the police.

The woman?

What about her? The woman had attacked me - She attacked me!” I mock shouted (would not have been able to actually shout even had I wanted to, throat concrete dry, any voice I might have flaking in stale puffs down into my gut, roiling sour gas there) - likely because she had believed me to be the man who had initially assaulted her, some death instinct to lunge at any figure around must have come alive in her, kill-switch - in her mind, it may have felt only moments had passed since she had been struggling with her killer (I was not her killer, I thought, wincing eyes on the words, absoluting them), or it all may have been a last involuntary spasm, chicken-with-her-head-cut-off flailing, pure coincidence I had been there to stab (had I not been she’d have run into the wall, broken her own neck - yes, I nodded, yes, I nodded - my grabbing her a formality, nothing that caused a reaction that wasn’t already in process).

At any rate, my position was that of needing help. Yes. The fact was I did not know who this dead woman was, I was simply on a trip to see my sister, had no reason to do violence or be in any room but my own - all reality would bear out my claim against any suspicion that might be leveled at me. Yes. “Yes,” I coughed, nodding like a simpleton. It could well be that the party responsible for my situation was making a getaway even as I stood around, hem-hawing this matter - I was giving my victimiser the chance to disappear.

“I am the victim,” I said, looking at the cold bulb of the room phone, hands not reaching for receiver or keypad. “I am the victim,” I mumbled, piteously, meek, then the word “victim” repeated half dozen times, a cloth momentarily made tight by wind now sinking limp and unworn in the still. The word was not computing in my brain, some click was not catching - the expression seemed vulgar, an unreality, something my body would not respond to, a thought deciphered as a false flag.

Yes, the very word was rotten and untrusted - I may as well have been calling myself a “gypsy” or a “launderette” or a “staple remover” it was all so nothing to do with me.

And then before I knew it I had exited the room (like a chop cut in old cinema, even an odd sound like a “bloop” in my head as I realised I was watching my feet walk, head bowed far forward) and was moving in the direction of the stairwell.

I was ascending before I’d even verified that was the thing to do - yes, yes, I came to my landing, ascending was correct - and at the sight of the light snow out over the lot, everything lightly coated with large soft flakes, I slowed down, leaned to the railing, felt my hands going through pockets and cigarette going to my lip, inhalation tight and ghastly (blood mingled with the grey-blue of the smoke, I half expected the exhalation to be beige or urine yellow).

What was I doing? I could still see blood all caked to my arm, my sleeve wrecked with it - for that matter, the hand holding my cigarette, wrapped in one of my socks, had been punctured through, likely was dead, useless except as a frigid vice to screw a smoke into, move to and from my lips - and yet I was having a casual cigarette, not 20 paces from my room, from my belongings, from a place I could hide.

Hide

The practical reality of my situation was not lost on me. If I left, now (which was perfectly reasonable) if I left no sign of blood or such things in my room, there would be no way for the police to trace me. No reasonable way.

My fingerprints were not on file anyplace - were they? no, no they were certainly not - they would have no call to go testing random DNA from vacated rooms of non-suspicious people against any fluid in the room of a murdered woman (and I would not be a suspicious person, I would be described by the motel clerk, talked about by the staff at the restaurant, no one would have any reason to think me anything to do with violence - I could be called, verify I had left early to get a drop on traffic, eager to finish my trip as I was not feeling well) and there would certainly be no reason to have me undress for officers to examine my body, if and when I was caught up with (I did not like it, but found myself planning to purposefully injury myself upon arriving at Justine’s, cut right through my hand, up my entire arm, even if it meant doing irreparable harm to my flesh, just so in the off chance I was questioned there would be witness in Justine - and whoever else was around - to when I had gored myself accidentally on a broken bottle or put an arm through a pane of window glass).

Discarding my cigarette - a flick of it, a shower of candy orange embers, against a room door I passed - I started in the direction of my room door. I needed to sleep.

The very fact that, in my fatigue, I reasoned that I would leave it to fate whether or not I was caught because of this indicated how true it was - if the woman’s body was discovered and I was caught out during a search, so be it, but it was pure lunacy to try to plan anything in my current state of mind (even thinking this, I felt myself lapsing in and out of focus, a skipping tape, recorded over and over, impressions of a song on a song on the click of the button depressed to make each recording).

Housekeeping would find the body. I’d be asleep. I’d be caught.

So go put a Do Not Disturb sign up, I thought -immediately whispering to myself (getting room key into card slot) “Yes, yes - literally behave like you are the murderer, conceal the crime!” and then whispered, in sarcastic retort “Going to my room, wounded, to sleep is doing the same, so which would be smarter, eh?” - and was still thinking when I took in the scent of perfume (cologne?) held in the steam from the still running shower which filled the room (the door clapping loud shut behind me) this moisture filled also with the sound of the tuneless hum of whoever was behind the bathroom door.

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