Joined: 05 May 2012
|Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 11:26 pm Post subject: The Hidden Crime - Chapter 4 - Memory is a funny thing.
WARNING: CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE.
The entire story (to date) in beautiful, readable HTML, courtesy of the wonderful Dropbox. Great for catching up, too. Link: The Hidden Crime
Chapter 4: Memory is a funny thing.
The nicely formatted version: In HTML
I was no stranger to blood. Especially someone else's. It wasn't too long ago, when I was covered in a loved one. Much like this morning. Except, this time I have no memory of how it happened.
Her eyes were fixed to the sky as I knelt over her. I called out her name and cradled her head in my trembling hands. There was nothing I could do, I knew from the moment I saw her eyes. But I tried anyway. I placed my palm upon her chest, and wrapped my other hand around it. I felt her ribs sink beneath my weight as I repeated the compressions for half a minute.
It must have been instantaneous. She must not have suffered at all.
Blood trickled down her brow, dampening her dark curls. Blue black bruises were quickly forming around her arms and thighs. A large, green shard was protruding from her side. I tried to breath life into her mouth, and continued compressing her chest.
They told me she had died on impact. That she did not feel her bones break. That she did not feel the broken bottle drive through her kidney.
Someone tried to pull me away from her, telling me it was hopeless. That I was too late. But I refused to leave her side. I wrapped my arms around her and begged her to come back. But she wouldn't listen. She would only stare at the sky.
How many times must I relive this? I closed my eyes shook my head. Breath. When I opened them, I was back in my apartment.
I stared at the book in my hands. 'The Great Gatsby', by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was sitting cross-legged by the bookshelf, with almost all of my books forming a tower on the ground next to me. That's right, I was going through my books one by one, checking for blood stains that may have snuck in. Looks like I woke up from one nightmare just to be into another. With a sigh, I continued on with my task as if I had never stopped.
It wasn't the first time I had the disorienting flashback. The novel must have triggered it. It was her favourite, the classics. We used to argue about it, because I had very much preferred contemporary literature, and she wasn't afraid to point out that I was 'wrong'.
Unthinkingly, I reached into my jeans pocket, and froze. It's not there.
Calm down, it's probably still by your bedside, I chastised myself for overreacting. After everything that had happened since I woke up, it was no surprise that I had forgotten it.
Despite telling myself that, I couldn't shake off the feeling of uneasiness. When I couldn't think about anything else anymore, I put the book on top of the others, and rushed into my bedroom. My heart skipped a beat. It wasn't on the dresser either.
My mind became blank. Then, it was filled with panic and confusion. Where could it be? For two years, it hasn't been anywhere else but inside my pocket when I'm out, and on top of my dresser when I'm home. I grabbed my phone and activated the fast dial. No one else had been in my apartment but Dan. I started pacing around the house. He must had known something. I couldn't lose it, now. I wasn't ready yet.
"Dan, it's gone. I can't find it. I don't know where it is. I---"
"Hang on, Seb, what's gone?"
I took a deep breath to calm myself down. "The ring."
"Terri's ring? Dammit Seb, don't scare me like that. I thought..." he sighed. "Never mind. Have you checked your pockets?"
"Yes, of course---"
"Not the one you're wearing right now. The other one."
"Oh," I suddenly understood what he meant. Of course. I looked over at the bundle of soaking fabrics in my kitchen sink. Did I really leave my engagement ring in there? I ran over to it and started digging through my bloodied pants' pockets.
I threw the pants back into the sink and cursed softly. "It's not there either. Dan, what do I do?"
He breathed frustratedly over the phone. "Seb, we'll look for it later, together, okay? Right now, I need you to focus on cleaning up the place."
At first, I was going to tell him 'no'. "Okay, fine," I conceded instead. My best friend had enough of my problems to deal with already, I realised. "How is it going over there?"
"I'm working on purifying the genetic material from the blood plasma. I should be able to put it through the machine to check for protein markers after that. Oh, did you know that human red blood cells don't actually contain genetic material?"
High school biology was coming back to me. "That makes sense. They were designed to maximise their oxygen-carrying capacity, if I remember right. So, you're looking for proteins commonly found in human DNA?" To find out if I killed a human being, like Kirsten?
I could practically hear him smile. "Yeah, you got it. Of course you did, you've always been the smarter one."
"Don't sell yourself short, brain surgeon."
"Aww damn, that means a lot, coming from mister rocket scientist."
"Wha---astrophysics and rocket science are not the same thing!"
I could hear my best friend bursting into laughter over my reaction. That idiot riled me up on purpose, I found myself smiling in realisation. It was then I understood why I kept turning to Dan whenever I felt bad. He always knew how to make me feel better.
"Thanks, Dan. I don't know what I'd do without you," I allowed.
"You'll never have to find out, I promise."
I laughed a bit. "Okay, this is getting a little too mushy for me, now."
"Oh yeah, totally. Let's hang up before it gets out of hand."
"Out of hand? What's the worst that could happen?"
"You know what? You're right. Let's just get married now."
I guffawed at that. "Okay, okay, fine, dumbass. I'm hanging up now."
"Ooo, I've always wanted an outdoor ceremony in a vineyard. Wait, who's gonna be my best man---"
I quickly hung up and laughed to myself for a minute. Feeling a lot better now, I finished going through my books. Then, I went on to check the broom closet, the kitchen cupboards, the mirror cabinet in the bathroom and the coffee table drawers. I even moved my couch a couple of feet just to make sure there was nothing underneath it. A few hours later, I was satisfied with my efforts. There was absolutely nothing new to be found, to my relief. Living room, check. Kitchen, check. Bathroom, check. Now, only the bedroom left.
Maybe, I hoped, I might even find my engagement ring in here. I could see it in my mind. A modest diamond seated on a plain silver band. It was the most ordinary engagement ring one could imagine -- except for the inscription on the inside: 'Theresa, the lucky woman I am going to marry. Sebastian.' I smiled at that memory. She would have loved that. Our wedding was going to be full of laughter, full of jokes, both practical and verbal. She once told me that my humour was why she fell in love with me. Of course, I knew it was much more than that. She loved how ridiculously serious I was about my research. How nicely I fit into my rugged leather trench coat. How Dan and I would banter endlessly over nothing. How we could---
I held my breath as I stared suspiciously at the contents of the top drawer of my bedside dresser. That wasn't there before. I reached down and picked up the bundled cloth. There was something hard inside it. Suddenly feeling nervous, I forced myself to put it down on my bed and slowly began to unwrap it. I didn't understand why, but my heart was racing painfully. My fingers were shaking as I peeled off the last layer.
I was sitting in darkness on Dan's couch, staring at the wall, when he came flying in. He stopped and blinked twice when he saw me.
"Dammit, Seb, why didn't you answer your phone?" he fumed and walked over to me. He studied my face. "Wait, how long have you been sitting here?"
I turned and looked at him. "It was human, wasn't it?" I said instead. I wondered if my best friend would be fine with me in jail. It would be hard on him, losing both his best friends.
He blinked again. "It doesn't matter---"
"But it's human, right?"
He exhaled exasperatedly. "Yes, but Martha called---"
"Thanks, Dan, for everything." I looked away again. He really needed to get out more, make other friends. I had tried telling him that before, but he kept using his busy schedule as an excuse. I shouldn't be his only close friend.
He only rolled his eyes. "Don't be so dramatic. Kirsten is fine!"
I looked at him again, this time in confusion.
"Martha had a chat with her in class today. This is good! This means nothing happened!" he laughed merrily as he strode into his kitchen.
No, that didn't make any sense. Nothing was adding up. I looked down at the bundle of cloth that I had laid on his coffee table.
Dan reappeared with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. "Time to celebrate, now that this thing is over," he grinned. He poured a glass and forced it into my hands.
Not just that, what about the human blood that Dan himself had admitted finding?
"Oh, cheer up already," he tousled my hair. He poured himself a glass as he grabbed the remote and switched on his flat screen TV.
It took only a moment before I realised what I was watching. My eyes widened in horror.
Dan caught my expression. "What is it?" He followed my eyes, and froze. "Wait, isn't that---"
"...was found in an alley near the night club. Detective---detective," the news journalist moved to stop a red-head in her early thirties. "What can you tell us about the murder?"
She glared impatiently at the camera. "The victim's name was Kyle Panopoulos. We believe this happened last night, at around one AM. If anyone saw anything suspicious inside or near the club, no matter how small, please contact the department. That would be all."
My right hand started to throb again. The pain was coming back.
"Seb, that's him, isn't it?"
I nodded. My body started to shake. Why was this happening? Images of Kyle flashed in my head. The pain in my hand was becoming unbearable.
Dan looked thoughtfully at the picture of Kyle on the flat screen. "It still doesn't mean anything. It's just a coincidence."
I shook my head slowly. "No, it wasn't." We were right outside the club. Kirsten was screaming obscenities at us. Kyle had looked regretful and devastated. Reeling from the flashback, I lifted up my right hand and stared at my knuckles.
"What do you mean?"
"He was there, Dan. I saw him," I felt a wave of sickness wash over me. There was blood running down Kyle's nose. "I saw him, and I punched him."
My best friend was silent. He only looked at me, unmoving, as if expecting me to fall apart if he did.
"I don't remember what happened after that. But," I laughed pitifully. "Maybe I don't want to remember."
Dan still said nothing. His expression was neutral, completely void of any clue as to what he could be thinking. Instead, he turned his attention toward the bundle of cloth that I had left on his coffee table.
And now, for the smoking gun. I reached down and unwrapped it, revealing a switchblade stained in blood. I looked up at my best friend's face, imploring him to say something.
But he wouldn't. Instead, he only closed his eyes and took a deep breath. After a long moment, he walked towards his front door. "We've got work to do," he declared softly, clearly waiting for me to follow.
He turned and looked right into my eyes. "The man who killed your girlfriend two years ago was murdered last night. All the evidence seem to point to you."
I looked away and my muscles tensed up. Here it comes. I was about to lose my best friend.
"Well, guess what? I don't give a damn what the evidence says. It's wrong, and we're getting rid of it, right now."
I woke up to a pounding on the door. Barely aware of the couch beneath me, I glanced at my surroundings. I'm at Dan's, I recalled. We had worked all night in removing every trace of blood from my flat. Still, even though it was clean now, I wouldn't sleep in that flat. I couldn't, not after what had happened. So, Dan had let me crash at his place.
I yawned as I clutched at the blankets around me. There was a note on the coffee table:
Gone to the hospital. I thought about everything last night. I'm more sure than ever that you didn't kill anyone. Trust me on this. I'll explain when I see you tonight.
p.s. go to work and act like everything's normal.
I jumped when I heard more pounding on the door. But, it wasn't on Dan's door they were pounding on. "Mister McDean?" a familiar female voice called out.
I immediately shot out of the couch and bumped into the coffee table. It was my door. Someone was looking for me at my flat.
"Forget it, I don't think he's home," said a male voice I didn't recognise. "Who's next on the list?"
"Wait, I heard something. I think his neighbour's home," said the female. Then it hit me. It was the red-head detective on the 7 o'clock news last night. The one investigating Kyle's murder. The very same one that's now only a few feet away.
"Anyone home?" And now, she was on the other side of the door.
to be continued...