EDVARD TUSK: without his face
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…
“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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.