Joined: 05 May 2012
|Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 11:22 pm Post subject: The Hidden Crime - Chapter 3 - Coming out.
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 3: Coming out.
The nicely formatted version: In HTML
"Just...give them my apologies, if that's okay."
"For sure, anything. Are you okay, Seb? It's not like you to skip work. I don't think you've ever taken a vacation, like, ever. I remember the time when you had, like, food poisoning or something, you still---"
"This one's different," I interrupted my colleague. Carl had a tendency to ramble. "I definitely won't be able to work even if I went in."
"Yeah, sure, but what about Peggy? You know the bitch isn't going to let this go. Remember the time when you, like, forgot to mention her contribution in the social dinner last week? An honest mistake, I know. Well, everyone knew. No one ever thought you, like, meant anything by it, but man, she sure rained hell on you. Did you know she even, like, filed a complaint to HR and---"
"I really don't feel well, I'm sorry, I have to go," I hung up before he could get another word in. I felt bad, doing it, but I wasn't lying. I had never felt so terrible in my life.
I put my phone down, leaned back into my 3-seater couch, and closed my eyes. Finally. Time to think. My heart had stopped racing. However, the bloody horror of it all was still there. I had accepted that the painful sensation in my chest wasn't going anywhere. Good thing my work had trained me to operate under pressure, I chuckled to myself miserably.
With everything that had happened since I woke up, I didn't have time to really think through my options. Fuck, I lied to Dan, I realised with guilt. Well, it's his own damn fault for coming over so suddenly. He never had the best timing. Still, I had to tell him. He was the only one I knew who was with me last night, and the only one I trusted more than I trusted myself. I needed him to piece this nightmare together. Some things are better left undiscovered...I shook my head. I had to find out. I wouldn't be able to live like this if I didn't. But can you live with yourself if you didn't like the answer?
Ignoring my stray thoughts, I stood up, took a deep breath, and left my single bedroom unit. The apartment building was the very picture of ordinary. Too expensive for starving students, but also too run-down for upper class socialites. It was refurbished from a 60's newspaper agency, thus the building design had a pragmatic feel to it. The owners of the apartment tried to spruce it up with antiques, which would've worked if the antiques didn't look so fake.
I rapped on Dan's door twice, then once. It was our way of telling each other that it was only us, and no one else. I heard his footsteps coming up to the door before it swung wide open, revealing my best friend in only a towel around his waist and a tooth brush in his mouth.
"Hey Seb," he mumbled over his tooth brush as he turned and strode into his bathroom.
I returned his greeting as I closed his front door behind me. "You busy today?" I asked. I felt myself getting nervous about what I was about to do.
He rinsed his mouth and spat into the sink. "I got some studying to do, you know, the usual." A pause. "Wait, you're actually skipping work today?"
His laughter echoed around his bathroom. "Shit, dude, that must be one killer hangover. All this time I've known you, you've never---"
"Yeah, okay, a colleague's already covered that one." I swallowed as I hardened my resolve. I had to do it. "Listen, I need to ask you something."
He walked out of his bathroom and into his bedroom, presumably to get dressed. "Yeah? Go ahead," he yelled from over there.
I started pacing around his living area. Then, I found a kitchen chair to sit on. Deciding it was too uncomfortable, I switched to his cushioned office chair next to his study table. A few of his medical books were open, and his laptop was showing an annotated picture of a brain. Studying was what Dan did most of his time, so it wasn't unusual.
"Well, are you going to ask me or not?" he asked suddenly, his voice a lot closer to me than I had expected. I swivelled around on his office chair and found him standing two feet from me with an eyebrow raised, dressed in loose-fitting clothes. I hadn't heard him leave his bedroom.
My throat became dry. "Uh, yeah." I stood up and walked towards his bookshelf. More medical books. Dan didn't read anything else. He once reasoned that he didn't have time for anything but work and study. But that was just a convenient excuse, because even before he got busy, he was never into reading.
"Uh oh, I have to sit down for this one, don't I?" my best friend said with a grimace.
I stood around his kitchen table. "What makes you say that?"
"Because I can tell you really don't want to tell me," he sighed as he grabbed me by my shoulders. "And you can't even look me in the eye. Come on, man, spit it out. You know I can take it."
Do it. "Last night," my voice was hoarse. "Can you tell me what happened, you know, when I left?"
He looked up, as if to help him remember. "Well, I took Mary---no, it's Marsha, I think---"
"No, I mean with me."
He looked at me in confusion. "With you? How would I know? You left with a girl." He released my shoulders and crossed his arms. "Seb, what's this about?"
"Do you remember her name?"
"Uh," his brow creased. "Kathy? No, Kayla? Something with a 'k'. Why, did she leave without---"
"What about her last name?"
"I don't know, she never told us," he grinned. "Aww, man, my boy wants another helping of---"
"Fuck!" I cursed suddenly.
Dan's grin was replaced by a look of exasperation. "Dammit, Seb, tell me what's going on already!"
I didn't say anything in reply. Instead, I walked over to his kitchen sink and poured myself a glass of water from the tap. I drank it all in a gulp, then, I refilled it and drank it again.
"Look, Seb, this is not like you. You have to tell me what's going on."
I put the glass down on his kitchen counter, but I didn't release my tight grip on it. "I think I killed her," I said softly while looking down at the sink.
"What? You have to speak up---"
"I think I killed her!"
The silence that followed was deafening. Neither one of us moved or said anything for a minute. Then I heard him swallow. "What do you mean, 'killed'?"
I turned around and faced him. "Don't make me say it again."
His expression slowly turned from uneasiness to shock. My best friend's voice quavered. "What happened?"
I closed my eyes and tried once again to remember. Nothing.
"Seb, what happened?"
"I don't know!" I snapped back at him. "I don't...I can't remember a thing." I covered my face with my hands.
"If you don't remember, then why did you think you---" Dan stopped suddenly, his face was ashen. "Wait, is she in your room now?" he asked nervously.
I shook my head. "No."
"Then why did you think you killed her?"
I put my hands down. They were starting to shake. No, get a grip of yourself.
Dan must have known what was happening to me, because he came up and grabbed my head affectionately. "Seb," his voice softened. "You can tell me."
I nodded, but I had to pull away before I could say anything. "There's a lot of blood. On my clothes, my bed, my carpet. On me."
My best friend tried to hold back his alarm, pretend that he wasn't perturbed by my words. But I could see it in his body language, from the way he had to stop himself from backing away. "It doesn't mean anything, Seb. It's probably some cat, or something. Even if it wasn't, it doesn't mean anyone's dead."
I didn't think Dan understood just how much blood I had meant. So, I told him to follow me back to my apartment. He hesitated for only a split second, before falling in behind me with confidence, as if trying to let me know that he would never doubt me. I had to smile to myself. He tried so hard to prove that I can always depend on him. Even two years ago, he had never allowed even a moment for himself, because he had to be the best friend. The familiar feeling of guilt returned. Was it really fair on him, that I kept piling all these burden on him? It's too late now.
I gathered my bloodied bedsheet and blanket from the washer, and my soaked clothes from my laundry basket, and laid them on either side of the red patch on the carpet. I looked over at Dan as he stared at them. He was speechless, and I could see the wheels in his head turning, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
"Okay," he started slowly. "That's a lot of blood."
"You want to tell me again that it's probably nothing?"
He whipped his head around. "Yes! Because this is crazy, Seb. You're not a..." he trailed off.
"A killer?" I finished for him, my voice void of all emotion.
He shooked his head. "Look, it's a lot of blood, but it still doesn't mean you did anything."
"It could still be animal blood, you know. There are ways to test this, and I can find out how to do it, if it makes you feel better."
"Even if it isn't from an animal, so what? Have you even read the paper today? Or watched the news? I promise you nothing happened."
"You can't promi---"
"And when were you planning to get these cleaned up? The longer you leave them, the harder they'll stain---"
"Dan!" I shouted frustratedly at him. It worked, because he stopped talking.
My friend staggered over to my bed and sat on it. "Sorry," he said softly. "You really dropped the bomb on me with this one, man." He massaged his temples with his hands. "Okay, I think Marsha left me her number."
"Marsha? That's the girl you took home?"
He simply nodded.
"What's that gotta do with anything?"
"Don't you remember? Dude, they did the whole 'oh my god you go to that college too what a coincidence' thing last night."
Realisation must have been written all over my face when he said that. "So they might know each other."
"Might, yeah, but I don't remember them exchanging numbers or anything."
"I still have to give it a try...at the very least, she'll know her name, right?"
Dan shot up from my bed suddenly. "Wait here," he said and left.
He returned a few minutes later with a crumpled piece of paper on one hand, and his phone on the other. His fingers were punching in the numbers furiously as he paced around my room. A yellow spot and a distinct smell of mustard enamated from that piece of paper. He must have trashed her number with his breakfast as soon as she had left.
"Seb, I left some peroxide on your kitchen counter," Dan said to me while he waited for the call to connect. "You have to pour the peroxide over the stain, and leave it like that for a few hours. Then, rinse it away with cold water, you got it?"
I nodded at him and carried the bloodied fabrics into the kitchen. I stuffed them into the sink and held up the bottle Dan had left on the counter. It said Hydrogen Peroxide 3% on the label.
"This is impotant, Seb. It has to be cold water, or it'll---oh hi," he turned away from me suddenly. "It's me, Daniel, from last night. How are you, Marsha?"
I cocked my head to listen as I dripped the 3% solution evenly onto the stains. Did Dan always have peroxide in the house? I never noticed it. He must have needed it to wash his scrubs, being a surgeon and all.
"Of course I called you 'Martha'. Had some food in my mouth, that's all. Listen, I'm wondering if you can do me a solid for a friend. Uh, yes, last night was special to me, too. Look, remember that girl who's in your college? Yes, Kirsten, that's her name. Do you happen to have her number? No?" he looked at me and shook his head disappointedly. "Say, you girls have the same professor, right? Maybe you can look for---uh, dinner sounds great, but I'm kinda busy with studying and---no, no, I'm not playing around, I swear---" he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "What I meant to say was, we can do dinner this weekend, is that okay? Great! So, about Kirsten...yes, that would be awesome. Thanks, Martha! Listen, I gotta go, but I'll call you soon."
Kirsten. I smiled at him, or at least I tried to, with all that was going on. "A date, huh?"
"Shut up. So, she said she'll look for Kirsten in class today. I'll call her again at five to find out how it went."
At five o'clock. I glanced at the clock on the living room wall. Only eleven in the morning. Kirsten. Could I really wait that long? I cleared my throat. "Okay, the bedsheet, blanket and clothes are soaking in the sink. But what do I do with the carpet?"
"The same, just pour peroxide over it," he quickly reached down and scraped some of the blood off the carpet onto the crumpled piece of paper that contained Martha's number.
My eyes were fixed on the paper as he folded it and stuffed it into his back pocket. Kirsten. "Are you getting that tested?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I'm going to the hospital now. Try to stay put, okay?"
With that, Dan was gone. He didn't even wait for my reply. Stay put? Could I really do that? Kirsten. I was tempted to follow Dan to the hospital, but I didn't know how helpful it would be. Then it hit me: maybe I could find out if anyone was hospitalised recently. And even get the newspaper on the way. I had her first name now. Kirsten.
As I poured the peroxide on the carpet, I suddenly remembered the bloody handprint on the bookshelf, and all the books scattered at its foot. Were there anymore blood stains hidden away somewhere? Kirsten. Maybe I should spend the day making sure I didn't miss anything, and tidy up the mess I had made in the morning.
I had to decide soon, if I wanted to catch up to Dan. Kirsten.
to be continued...