The Books of Darkness
by Robert N. Stephenson
|Table of Contents|
part 1 of 2
I must have fainted. I opened my eyes to find myself lying on an ambulance gurney with an oxygen mask over my face. I tried to sit.
“She’s coming round,” a woman called. It was an ambulance officer, her green coveralls bright under lights. Searchlights. The whole area looked as though it were bathed in sunlight.
The face of one of the police officers came into view. I pulled the mask off, forcing myself to sit.
He waited until my legs were over the side of the bed before speaking. “We found him.” His tone flat, officious.
“Is he okay?”
“What is your relationship with the man?” He sounded suspicious.
“We’d just met at a party, we were taking a walk.” I lied; they wouldn’t believe what really happened. I couldn’t believe it.
“Where was this party?” He wrote something in his small notebook. He had that no-nonsense look all cops got when they talked down to you. Couldn’t he see I was in shock? Where was Sarina? Surely she would have heard the sirens; there are always sirens when something like this happens. “Please, Miss, where was the party?”
I couldn’t tell them the address, so I directed them from the back seat of a police car. The building was quiet, as I expected it to be. I told them about the basement party, only I couldn’t tell them I’d arrived with Sarina. Bringing her in didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
I waited in the car while two officers walked around the house flashing their torches through the windows. One of them made a call on his radio. Ten minutes later a car pulled up and a woman, looking bedraggled and carrying a bunch of keys opened up the house. I hoped the Goths wouldn’t get into trouble; after all it was one of their own who’d been murdered.
The officers exited the house and the woman locked the door. Something was said that made the woman laugh. The officers climbed into the car only to inform me there was no one there and that the house had been empty for about three months. They asked again where the party had been and of course I insisted this was the place.
I then spent the next six hours in an interview room at the city station. After three hours they told me that Jacko had drowned and his family had been notified. A sergeant recognized me from a book jacket and cleared me to go home. There were some perks to being famous. A police car dropped me at my front door at 7 a.m with the notice they would be talking with me further.
As I unlocked the front door I realized I was both witness and prime suspect in Jacko’s death. I couldn’t explain what had happened to the party, and I couldn’t adequately explain why I was out walking along the river with a boy almost half my age. I dropped on the sofa in the front room, rubbed the ache from my temples before calling Sarina.
“Get out of the house,” she said as soon as she picked up. “Diana, you must get out of the house.”
“Jacko’s dead.” Her emotions were shot; the admission came out all flat and lifeless. “Orlando killed him.” I fell to one side, weariness taking its toll. I closed my eyes, let the spots dance and weave beneath the lids. I pulled a cushion to my chest, something to hold.
“You will be next if you don’t get out of the house, and get out now.” Sarina was persistent, urgent. “Take a cab, and get off at the top of Hurtle square. I’ll meet you on the beach.”
“I need sleep.” I’d had enough for one night. “I’m going nowhere.”
“Don’t let anyone in. I’m coming to get you...” I flipped my phone closed and dropped it beside my head. I felt so tired, just so tired.
“I’ve got something to tell you.” It was Steven.
“Go away, I’ve had a rough night.” I held the cushion tighter and rolled to face the back of the sofa.
“Diana, I’m free of him and I have to tell you something.”
I squeezed my eyes closed, willing him to go away, to leave me alone. I didn’t care what he had to say. This was my time, my little piece of reality. I breathed in the smell of leather, let it distract me, lure me towards sleep..
“I have to tell you why I’m here.”
“No!” The screamed echoed off the walls, rang in my ears. “I don’t care why you’re here, I don’t want to know why you did what you did. Do you understand that, Steven?” I didn’t want to face him. I just wanted to be left alone. I’d witnessed a murder, a crime I couldn’t explain to anyone who wasn’t some kind of twisted weirdo.
Steven stopped bothering me, but my stomach still twisted with expectation. Was he still there, still watching me, waiting for me to turn over? My mobile rang and vibrated near my head, the standard Nokia ring tone. Morse code for SMS. Then it rang with a voice call. I ignored that as well. Please just leave me alone, I begged, forcing the cushion into my face. Please.
I lay there tense, anxious, screwed up. Even though tired, exhausted by a night of questions and bad coffee, sleep wouldn’t come; even that had fled. In the silence of my front room I heard the laugh of a Kookaburra in the distance, the twitter of honey-eaters in my native garden. All sounds that usually gave me relief from the world at large now became just noise, an interruption to the one thing I desired. The outside world continued on without me, flowed ever forward as if I didn’t exist or mean anything. I knew I was crying, the tears failed to relieve me of the fear that gripped so coldly around my shoulders. “Why me?”
The doorbell rang. I ignored it. Tried to pull the cushion over my ears. Go away, I thought, just leave me the hell alone. It rang again and again and again. Frantic ringing.
“Diana.” I heard Sarina’s yell. “It’s me, open the door.” Again the ringing.
Struggling against weariness, I made my way to the door. My heels tapping on the floorboards. I was too tired to even unstrap the boots. No sooner had I unlatched the lock, Sarina was inside, shouting, shaking me. “We have to go.” She pushed a mess of hair out of my face. She smelt good. Better than coffee.
“Too tired.” I didn’t want to argue. I had difficulty focusing on her face. She dragged me outside and into the drive. The sun blinded me.
“Get in the taxi.” She pushed and steered me towards a yellow car.
“My stuff.” I still needed my pills, my clothes, my pillow.
“I’ll get it, now get in and put your seat belt on. It’ll only take me a few minutes to grab the essentials.” She opened the door.
“She okay?” the taxi driver asked.
“She’s fine.” Sarina put her hand on my head and pushed me into the car.
“You don’t know what I need.” I fell into the seat, the smell of polish and garlic thick.
“I’m a woman, I know what you need.” Sarina slammed the door, while I fumbled with the seatbelt. The taxi driver had turned and stared at me. He looked African: white, white teeth smiled in a black, black face.
I didn’t know how long Sarina had been gone, it only felt like a few minutes until she climbed into the back with me. She pushed an overnight bag between us. My stuff. The driver reversed back onto the street and headed towards Blackwood, and I guessed, down the hill to Sarina’s place. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, the car felt warm, the sun soothing as it reached through the windows. I felt Sarina ease my head back and stroke my brow.
“You’re safe now,” she whispered.
* * *
Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson