I am the one who discovered the existence of her book. For the ordinary person, it stands for little other than a black mark. But for her, me and others like me, it generates the kind of notoriety that only the likes of …
Four years and he had to die on the day of our first ever meeting.
My writings on the war pictures, as he liked to call them, had intrigued him. It had taken me some time to convince my family that I simply had to come all this way to meet a man called Charles Leroy Nutt. This would be reason enough for many in my native land to be cautious if not hostile but this was not all. I did not say this was not what he called himself now. I dared not even tell the man himself that I knew his other name. This was a source of shame. Initially, the sole reason for our correspondence was my admiration for the work behind that other name.
The final terminus of my journey proved too much. I was ushered into a line for looking too closely at the door. Too many people were inside his room. I looked at his desk, then down. I saw the paper. I instantly recognised the scribble. It was unmistakably his handwriting. Instinct dared me not to pick up the paper. Strange to speak to him this way. I could not give anything other than a cursory glance to the clots of sticky red. Some part of me realised I had to see, smell and sense what had happened to him. That was, if I was ever going to be a writer.
Someone pushed me. My knuckles had frozen in an enraged anger and I could not hear anything. The heavyhanded shaking of me released my knuckles from their grip. He kept repeating: “How long have you known each other”. “FOUR YEARS”, I said. “Are you deaf or something?” he asked. ‘FOUR YEARS”. Another officer held me down as if somehow this would contain the shrilled volume in my voice. A tightly wrapped woman in a red coat with a large handbag and shiny black hair appeared. She apologised on my behalf. I had read what to do in such circumstances but just omitted to conduct myself in this way. Sometimes there was truth in writing. Deference even if false and it mostly is false, is and always will be a necessity of pointless authority. “I thanked her”. I wondered if she was Charles’ girl? He never mentioned a girl. She was a woman.
But the heavyhanded baboon had not finished. He simply did not realise I was distracted by this event and now this woman. I was trying to understand how to deal with losing something I had never had. I have another question. “What did you do for him? “I did not do anything for him. We corresponded. Of course, we wrote to each other” I said. Luckily, my sarcasm was covered by my rambling. “What about?” he asked. “The war”. Relieved at his momentary silence, I quickly filled the gap with “writing”. “Where did you meet?” Baboon began to poke me. I played the deference card. I was not from these parts. Red coat had helped me but my luck was running out quicker than my fellow Charles. “We never met physically, in person I mean”. Baboon was slightly taken aback but then suddenly showed no interest in me whatsoever. I wondered about testing the reaction. “I am a writer too”, I said but no one, not even the oversized uniformed baboon was interested in either me or my beloved fellow Charles Beaumont. There were hundreds of writers in these kind of places, dead ones, live ones, forgotten ones, you name it, they had every kind. It was hard to tell stony faced oaf that this particular fellow, Charles Beaumont, now dead, deceased, departed, who I had come all this way to meet, was actually my hero.
Red coat was back. “I’m Sandra Cheever” she said. “I am a writer”, Why did I say that? I felt stupid but things had a habit of coming out the wrong way. “Do you have any idea what happened?”, she asked. “I’ve just arrived” I said. “Your Roger”, she said. “You really a writer” she enquired. Yes, she was right, a name like Roger was a guarantee that I would never be a writer. “Yes”. She had that kind of face where involuntary talk takes over. “I corresponded with Charles but this was to be our first meeting. His last letter he had said he no longer felt alive”. An ominous statement perhaps indicating his impending death”… “Let’s walk” she said. I thought she meant run away but she just meant walk. She grabbed my arm and walked out with me. I was terrified but baboon did not care and neither did the others. Perhaps, I was harsh, a real baboon would be much more sensitive than this specimen. “Of course, people like me try to think up murders but these are in the comforts of our imagination. Some may feel visceral but they are not physical acts.” She hushed me into immediate silence. Did anyone understand that Charles was dead. I did not understand any of this. I had not even seen death, not in real life, not until today. It was no wonder murders were rampant if this was how crimes in this Niu Yawk were investigated.
“Can you think of anything?” she asked. “I feel blank, clueless on what to think. Charles is dead” I said. “Well we need a little more than that. What we need right now is for you to find the clue on what happened to Charles” she said. “The number” I said urgently. “The paper on the floor, it was a code, simple and disappointing and the purpose is unclear. But that crumpled bit of paper lay bare the code behind 6324. I rarely see numbers…” “Look Roger, get on with it” she insisted. “Charles said I was the only person to say this to him”. “What?” she asked. “FCB. That’s the code. The first three are obvious. He knew I was coming to meet him. I always referred to him as my fellow. He once told me this made him chuckle like a schoolgirl. I cannot imagine the sound of his voice. I’ll never hear his… Yes. The next two refer to his real name, Charles Beaumont. I am uncertain about the D?” She had began to thump her feet. “D’s got to be for disclosure. That policeman knows about the racket. Nutt’s dead because of him, he knows it and I know it but I can’t prove it” she said. “Are you trying to tell me, a policeman killed Charles” I felt bewildered. “Yes, don’t you know anything?” she said. She pulled out a pile of papers from her bag. I stole it, from Nutt. Nutt says you’re the only man to think like him”. “Did he really?” I asked. “Now I need you to make those weird connections and tell me how we end this.”
I lost myself and embraced Sandra. I soon realised this was not the kind of attention she wanted. I stopped. I felt so awake. I had never felt so close to my hero fellow Charles Beaumont, dead or alive. 863241
We were laughing until Anita’s tumble-led shriek caused a near fall. She reacted to my trying to take a closer look at the sparkling diamonds scattered across the coal black pavement. Fortunately our strong Roman soldiers in drag formation maintained our upright positions. Close up, fractured glass remnants replaced the diamonds, the edges infected by the red hues emanating from the necklace. I was no longer angry with Michelle for striking the street light. A garuaesque fog held me back from inspecting further. He’d tied the cord too tightly around my neck but at least the pentagram did not move.
Goose pimples followed our every step and pavements proved to be problematic. We parted. Anita’s grey huddled heap contrasted Michelle’s limestone stature. She saw me stare, glanced at the necklace before turning to watch the swift moving clouds drift above us. I looked up at the flat. “Look, I’ve lit the way home Toto” I laughed. “Not very eco” retorted Anita sharply. Michelle laughed at my discomfort. Anita always had to strike me down with curt comebacks. My laughter had faded into the night.
I opened mum’s red before I told Michelle that I’d found the flat. I got zilch about the sacrificed good wine but much about my commercial consumerist competitiveness. She then expressed the need to see the place for herself. Michelle now asked about the flat all over again. I explained about the agency. The place wasn’t right for everyone the man said. I told Michelle the price had been right. I did not say by how much. But this was not the only reason I went for the flat. Difference was the key. It’s odd uneven walls and the strange stone embedded inside the brick walls. The place was different like me. I could not explain to Michelle that the reason I felt so close when we first met was because she was different. Anita became so ordinary then. Not so now, I had let Anita down badly and she had not forgiven me. I needed Michelle but she didn’t need me. She did not care about anything even herself. She was free to do whatever she wanted. Not like me or Anita. We had to care because no one else did. I always felt forced to fit in with both of them. One day I thought but these things never happen in the way you imagine.
Michelle deserved Anita’s strikes not me. The contradiction of meek and demanding. A throwback from when her mother used to beg me to come keep her fragile angry daughter company. Anita worked hard to fit in after the illness. She could not help herself. Normality was her perpetual identity crisis. Her strong caring side abused by her desire to challenge wrongdoing dispensed critical strikes usually aimed at me. A primeval attack against my many weaknesses. Still, at least Anita cared, she cared about everything and everyone. Anita had not wanted to go out that evening. Maybe she still felt resentful. She dressed to go out before announcing one of her funny feelings. I took Anita’s funny feelings seriously but Michelle laughed at her and pushed her fearful face out the door. I followed suit. They had come to stay with me but they never joined me. Not like I wanted.
I had left the door unlocked. Anita was worried the flat had been burgled. Not me I might add. I had inside information. There was nothing worth stealing. The lights flickered on and off as Michelle pushed the door wide open. I could not help myself. “Wouldn’t it be weird if someone was in the flat?” I said. Anita’s fear took hold. “Why did you have to say that? she demanded. I turned around and stared at her. “Look Anita, I don’t know why I said it.” I screamed “Rrraaaah” right into her face. Anita’s hair blew back. I fell back on humour otherwise I would have screamed at her uptightness. Besides I had new neighbours. “You’re weird Jess, even Michelle thinks so. Let me in, I need to go” Anita said. “As the resident weirdo, I invite you to enter the threshold”. I stroked the pentagram necklace for effect and bowed for her to enter. Anita let out an exasperated tut before charging in wobbling in her heels.
Michelle tugged on my arm. “Wait” she said. “Let’s go inside” I said, weary of a scene. She pushed passed me and stumbled into the kitchen. She did not sit down. “How come he gave you the necklace?” she asked. I had no idea but was suddenly desperate to make everything alright with Michelle. “He wanted to help us get into that place – the cheapskate wants it back” I said. Michelle asked me if I liked him when Anita shouted out for toilet roll. “Sorting out shit is a big part of my life” I said. I was relieved by Anita’s intervention and laughed nervously. Michelle sniggered and slumped into the nearest chair in satisfaction.
I exchanged with Anita. I needed air and the toilet would have to serve as the sanctuary in what was supposed to my new flat. Michelle could move in but it would never work. I listened hard. Michelle was focused on Anita now. “What did you think of that club?” she asked. “Weirder than that place you found”. I heard Michelle shout, “I meant the guys?” . “They all looked the same to me” said Anita. I laughed. Random thoughts overtook my mind. Later, it became heated and Anita accused Michelle of something and a nutter or something like that was mentioned. I did not want to come out. I was tense all over again.
I returned bearing a blanket. I threw it at Anita and turned east to do some stretch yoga.
“It’s all in the spine…” I said. Anita now wanted more from me. “Jess, can I have a shower…a BATH?” I muttered that she should go for it under my breath. “Anything at Hotel anything for you?”. Michelle looked jealous so I took back the blanket from Anita and flung it at her telling her to do what she did best. The laughter returned even though I was now in prayer position. But then my stomach almost popped out. Three loud knocks punctured my position. I looked up from the floor where I had collapsed. Anita glared at a wide-eyed Michelle. It was 2.30am. “It’s the neighbours” I said convinced. Three more loud knocks. Michelle shouted, “LET THEM IN. LET THEM IN”. I shouted for her to stop but she had left the room. The bangs came a third time. I rushed to the door and listened. Nothing.
I slowly opened the door. The good-looking pentagram necklace guy from the club. He carried two bulges in his leather jacket. I had a funny thought but then all I said was “RUFUS what are you doing here?” He asked me if I was “Inviting me in or…?”. I could see Michelle in my room, her compact light was on and the lippy was out. The door slightly ajar so she could listen. In the kitchen, I felt awkward when Rufus asked after Michelle. Would I have to give up my room for him and her in my own flat? Michelle emerged and Rufus held out a chair for her. He took off his jacket and hung it on the back of her chair.
I nearly left but Rufus asked me for four glasses and even asked after Anita. Maybe he’d come to be social or was it the necklace? I would have returned it. He took out a bottle which he rightly held at arms length. The crimson coloured the sides. Michelle ventured for home-made port but I thought it looked blood like. I could hear Anita groan at my suggestion before she turned up the music in the bathroom. “Count Drac?” laughed Michelle. “It’s an elixir, think Mirto” he said. “Chemical, definitely artificial” I said. “Wrong, completely natural, MIRTO’s made of myrtle, juniper and arbutus” he said.
We clinked glasses. It was pretty disgusting even for Michelle but we were not rude for some reason. We drank the first glass and somehow the bottle fell empty. Forgetful drunks must be forgiven. Rufus leaned back masterfully. He exchanged meaningful looks with Michelle who announced she was off to her bedroom. Her bedroom? I wanted to scream at her but instead I heard her scream. I was confused and looked at Rufus to confirm that I was not projecting thoughts. I shouted out to Michelle. I felt slightly out of sync. I got out of the chair and nearly fell as I stumbled to the bedroom. I steadied myself. I called out and began to tug at the handle of the door but it was locked. Michelle did not respond. She was so quiet. Perhaps she wanted attention but it was just not like her to go about it in this way. Rufus suddenly appeared and began to quietly ask Michelle if something was wrong. It was as if I did not exist.
I looked away then down. Water was coming from the bathroom. I shouted to Anita. I had to be sober. This was my place. They could do what they like but I had to sort things out even when I was drunk. I shouted to ask if Anita realised she had overrun the bath and why was the water brown. She was silent too so I yelled over the music. At last, she responded. She could not see any water. I asked her to open the door. She finally got out of the bath. Anita rattled the handle but did not bother to open the door. She stopped the music and then accused me of locking her in. “I locked you in like I leaked water, like I locked Michelle in”. I explained that she had to have locked it from the inside. I tried to tell her about Michelle. She refused to listen and instructed me to “just do something” about Michelle and commented about my “slurred speech”. An indication that I was unreliable drunk and therefore unworthy of her precious attention.
I suddenly remembered that I had been given the number of the landlord in case of emergencies. “I’m ringing the landlord”. Rufus snatched my phone. “It’s gone past 3am”. I snatched the mobile back but there was no signal.
I asked Michelle if she was doing this for attention but then Rufus accused me of orchestrating the whole thing. “You wanted to be alone with me” he insisted. Delusional. I was the only sane person. “I’ll need the necklace” he said as he went off to the kitchen, he grabbed his jacket and came back. “Necklace?” he demanded. I tugged at Anita’s door handle angrily. Rufus waited. “Just go, you useless shit…” I could see more brown water leaking and I rushed up to the kitchen window and began to shout out into the street for attention. Where were my neighbours? “You don’t know the landlord do you?” He said.
“What’s that got to do with it?” I asked.
Rufus grabbed a chair from the kitchen and smashed it against the bedroom door. Michelle lay unconscious on the floor. She was breathing. Rufus and I put her on the bed. She shivered back to life losing much of her shine.
Later in the kitchen, a shamefaced Anita held Michelle’s hand as she explained how she had heard a knock and then felt a shock. She felt different she said.
“This place gives me the creeps” announced Anita.
Rufus called out “girls” as if he was some harem leader. “Here. A leak, anyone touching these switches, would’ve got a shock.” We could be dead I thought. Michelle laughed it off. “Just tell us next time you don’t want us to stay.” Now I was going to call this landlord. I went to grab my phone when Rufus snatched it again. “It’s 4am, you’re drunk and do not forget the door.” He was right but I was going to do it anyway when he and Michelle started up with their secret messaging. I stared at Rufus then Michelle and the necklace slipped off of its own accord. It managed to leave a sharp scratch on the table. It was not my night, a door and now the table. Michelle was right. I was not fit to have a flat. My independence was becoming a long distance road trip. Rufus pulled out an extra bottle. I mustered a smile. Alcohol was the only answer. “I’d like several” I said. “Hallelujah” said Michelle as she moved over to Rufus. Still playing games. She wanted to be alone she said except that meant being alone with Rufus. He followed her into the spare room. Anita refused to drink and listened instead. She heard the words necklace and Jess. It figured.
Rufus took Michelle’s hands. She went to move away but he pricked her pointedly and precisely in the neck with one edge of the pentagram necklace. Blood oozed out. Rufus pulled back. He filled an empty bottle. Anita said she expected Michelle wanted to sleep with Rufus. He tried to say something about Michelle and I immediately stopped him saying I was going to bed. He had the nerve to say “what a great idea?” Anita took the cue and left us alone. I made small talk about the necklace. He said it was a special heirloom and then like Michelle, he asked me what made me move to this flat? I could not start to tell him about difference. Too difficult to explain. So I mentioned it being newly decorated and said I was going to rent the other two rooms so I could live rent free. Rufus lay the pentagram on the table. I picked the pentagram pendant and pricked my finger. I held it up. Rufus looked intensely into my eyes reflecting my bleeding finger. I could see him almost melt. “Bloody beautiful” he said. “Thanks” I muttered as I wrapped my finger in the spare toilet paper lying on the table.
He asked if he could stay. I did not plan this and I was all mixed up. I walked to my room and Rufus grabbed the pentagram and followed. I did not stop him. Anita gave me one of her looks on the way back to the kitchen.
In the bedroom, I asked, “What did she say about me?”. He said Michelle talked about me the whole time and wanted me to have the necklace. I felt guilt. Rufus held out the pentagram but then he lunged towards me. I reacted involuntarily because I felt sick and did not want to be kissed. But a strange disembodied thought occurred. He was trying to attack me with the necklace. I was certain the second time round when he tried to do it again. I shouted out to “MICHELLE” and ran into the bathroom. I began to hyperventilate in the bathroom. Blood poured out of my grazed neck after I mistakenly swung round into him. He rushed back to Anita who heard me shout something but clearly not enough for her to get up.
“Jess stuck in the bathroom?” she asked. Rufus put his hand on her shoulder. Anita agreed to give Rufus a chance for my sake. Rufus suggested a drink as a truce. Anita wanted water but Rufus insisted there was no other way. Finally, he stood in her way as she tried to feign tiredness. She capitulated “One won’t hurt, then I’m going to bed.” He instructed her to swallow in one gulp. Anita did so and stared in disbelief when she saw the bottle was empty. Anita could not work out how. She then asked, “Did Jess scream?” Anita walked off slightly disorientated as Rufus called after her.
Anita walked in on Michelle. She screamed and tried to lock the door but the lock wouldn’t work. Rufus pushed the door open. “You should be more like your friends” he said. “Not Jess’’ she screamed.
“Try on the necklace for me” he said.
“JESS, JESS?” she screamed. Rufus grabbed her but she struggled free. He again insisted she try on the necklace.
“You try it on” she said. Anita asked him to hand the necklace to her. He moved forward with glee only she pushed him out-of-the-way and ran to the front door. It was locked. He came out holding a set of keys. She ran to Jess’s room. It was dark. Anita fell back. Subdued She saw blood spray everywhere. Shocked. She saw me appear. I could not understand how Rufus could be alive. His blood fed my red-lit Visigoth dressed self.
“Oh my God, Jess what did he make you wear?” mumbled a shocked Anita.
A bit of me could still laugh at the loss of black but not the one who was communicating.
“He was the landlord” I said.
“Him? He killed Michelle” she informed me.
“You’re with me” I assured her but she continued to talk about Michelle. I had to carry out this strange urge. She had to join me if she wanted to live. Anita sensed something round her neck. She was wearing the pentagram necklace. She instinctively knew. She tried to run I had no choice but to pierce the graceful nape in her neck. “We are the Mysticons” I said. I do not why I kept saying this. I do not even know who the Mysticons are? But maybe someone out there does. It is strange. A bit of me is still here but it’s no longer me.
The bottles refilled with Anita’s blood. I held the pentagram and felt myself scratch names into the stone wall. Names appeared and disappeared with numerous others including Michelle and Anita, even Rufus. A red white light transformed our transparent bodies into a mist which enveloped what we once were. We were together and we were red. I would never see mum again or could I? Would she understand?
…The phone alarm clock struck 8am. Our red light left through the gaps of the front door which opened to let out the pentagram. The door closed behind. Outside a new neighbour was being shown the flat. He was younger than me. He was planning to invite friends. That will be us I thought…
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