Friday, August 17, 2007

Her Cups Runneth Over (3)

This is the third installment of a short story which began HERE.

A torrid sun; a tropical paradise; a frustrated writer; a cheating wife; a mysterious sultry woman... the ingredients for a forbidden affair? Or the recipe for murder and the perfect crime?


VIII


During the ride downtown the officers left me alone with my thoughts and grief in the back seat of the cruiser. It wasn't grief burdening me. I was becoming overcome with paranoia. I didn't kill my wife, and yet my tortured soul felt responsible. Was it not a grievous sin to wish someone dead? Did I really want her dead? Not once do I recall ever thinking how I would feel or react if she indeed did die. I tried to convince myself that I never wished her any real harm. All of those morbid thoughts of her demise sprung out of moments of anger, hurt, and shame.

The morgue was located in the bowels of the building which housed not only the police station, but the Mayor's office, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and a flower shop as well. I was struck by the irony of the flower shop as we walked the dimly lit hallways. "Can I help you, sir?" I said, "Yes, I'd like a dozen red roses." The lady behind the counter smiled, "For a special woman no doubt?" I grinned at her
"Nah! I'm just gonna stick them in the body drawer before they close it."


It was all I could do to keep from chuckling aloud. That would surely make a 'positive' impression on the two police officers with me! Yes, a grieving husband in a joking mood on the way to ID his wife's body, wasn't the normal reaction they would be expecting.

The place reeked of death and formaldehyde and I was nearly gagging as a large drawer was pulled open. The second policeman took my arm and guided me closer as the first one began to unzip the body bag.

IX

Fifteen minutes letter I was sitting by the burly officer's desk as he hunt-and-pecked with one finger upon the keys of an antiquated Royal typewriter. I would have thought that a police station on an island resort would at least have an antiquated word processor.

He asked me all of the standard questions: When did I last see my wife? Had we had sex that night? Had we fought? What did I do and where did I go after she left? Could anyone confirm my actions and whereabouts? I knew that I would probably regret it later, but I conveniently omitted any mention of the woman Nova. It would have seemed all too cute if I was in the company of a beautiful woman while my wife was out being murdered. The police would've viewed it as a possible contrived alibi.

As he typed he spoke, annoyingly reciting each word. "Cause of death ... strangulation ... victim found hanging ... from a balcony railing ... by blue elastic material ... appears to be the ... bottom of her ...bikini swimsuit..."
He looked up at me and said, "I guess it's a fad nowadays for women to wear bikini bottoms in the place of underwear, eh Mr. Earle?"

I nodded and froze, not daring to show emotion. My mind was racing a mile a minute. She didn't put on any underwear when she went out! She had made a bold defiant point to make sure that I knew it. I was about to bring up that fact, but the words wouldn't form. "No! God no!" I blurted out.

The officer stopped and looked at me with keen interest. Realizing the error of my outburst I cried out, "You .. you're telling me that she was strangled ... hanged ... with her own underwear?" I bowed my head and buried it in my hands. The image of her naked body on that cold slab of steel was imprinted in my minds eye; the dark bruises that encircled her long neck, the raw lacerations on her knees, and the frozen fear on her face.

I listened trying to digest the man's theory of what might have happened to my wife. Although there were tests and of course the autopsy, for which I signed the waiver form, to be performed the next morning he seemed confident on several points. "There were traces of semen in your wife's vagina and about her mouth, and I'm only guessing, but it may have been from two different men." He glanced at me before continuing, "We're going to need to obtain some of your DNA. It's standard procedure, Mr. Earle. Of course, you can always refuse..."

I shook my head. If I refused it would only delay matters, besides, I wanted to know any and everything their investigation might uncover. "Of course, I'll cooperate with you in any way I can."
X



It was another hour before I was free to leave. I turned down their offer for a ride back to my hotel, opting instead to walk. I needed to be alone with my thoughts. Those thoughts were emotion-charged, running a gauntlet from sorrow, guilt, utter rage, and finally confusion. While I felt sorry that she may have suffered, I could not bring myself to shed a tear. For that, I felt guilt. The sorrow and guilt gave way, however, to a stronger emotion - rage! How could she? If it hadn't been bad enough that she was with another man, that night she had been with two men. My hands clenched into tight fists, my fingernails nearly drawing blood from my palms. I tried to convince myself that there had been separate trysts. I couldn't bear to think she'd been in the sack with two men at the same time!


The hotel was in sight as I began wrestling with the confusion of some troubling facts. First and foremost was the blue bikini bottom his wife had apparently been wearing, and which had been used to strangle her. I knew that she had left our suite wearing nothing beneath that miniskirt. So where did it come from?


Then there was Nova! The vision of her on the beach wearing almost nothing, save that tiny blue bikini, began replaying over and over in my head. The visions fast-forwarded to that moment where she had stood waiting by the door of my room as I stepped off the elevator. There was a stirring within my loins as that image of her red dress falling to her ankles unfolded as if I was only then living the moment. She had been wearing nothing under the dress.


Though I tried, I could not dismiss wondering if she had already used her blue underwear to strangle my wife! Why? She had no motive. She didn't know my wife. I wasn't sure if she even knew that I was in fact married. I felt a weight begin pressing upon me when I remembered that she had known who I was when we were sitting at the table in the lounge. She had known my name and that I was a published author. How much more had she known about me?


What did I know about her? I could describe every inch, every curve of her naked body. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly with the realization that except for the carnal pleasures we had exchanged, I knew absolutely nothing about her.


It wouldn't be long before the police would come to the hotel and begin asking questions to verify my answers to their interrogation. My story would be compromised once they talked to the bartender in the lounge. There was but one recourse, I had to find her before the police learned of her. I had to find Nova!
XI
As I entered the lobby the clerk at the desk motioned to me. "Mr. Earle, I have a message that a lovely young woman dropped off for you," he said when I reached the desk. I took the sealed envelope from him and he added, "She said her name was Ms Caine and you would know who she was."


I eagerly tore upon the envelope noting that she had used the hotel stationary. I read and reread the few handwritten lines.
Mr. Earle,


Thank you again for signing my letter of reference. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to do so. With a reference letter from a best-selling author, I feel I can now get a job with a publishing firm. It has long been a dream of mine.


Sincerely, N.
I suddenly felt numb all over. I sat down in a lobby chair and considered the irony. Ms Caine? N for Nova? I slumped back in the chair. Nova Caine? Had I been played, or what?


To be continued... HERE.

No.1080

4 comments:

Hale McKay said...

Try as I may, I could not condense my thoughts or this story into three parts. A fourth part is necessary.

Jack K. said...

No need to apologize. Tales have lives of their own. The excellent writer recognizes that and rejoices in the opportunity to stay with it until it has run its natural course.

I commend you in your writing skills. You are a masterful story teller. Thank you for sharing.

I do look forward to the next chapter.

Peter said...

Very good Mike, that Nova caine line is a gem.

Serena Joy said...

The twists and turns just keep on coming. Looking forward to Part IV.