THE MURDER OF CHERYL SYNCLAIR
I poured myself another glass of rum and threw myself on the couch. My head felt heavy as I took a big gulp, knocking down a bit of the dark liquid over my bare chest. A distant ringing could be heard, but I couldn’t figure what it was. My eyes drooped, begging me to catch some sleep. The distant ringing stopped presently but was substituted by a loud noise of glass shattering. My eyes flung open to discover that I had dropped my glass, and now the dark liquid and glass pieces were all over the floor. I was surprised at the extent to which this minuscule incident upset me. Perhaps it was because I had realised then that I had broken a good glass tumbler, and along with that I had wasted an exceptional amount of fine rum. Overcome by emotions, I allowed myself to lie back on the couch and beat myself up to tears. The ringing commenced again much louder this time, and it took me a moment to realize that it was coming from my mobile phone kept on the study table. I stood up, grabbing the armrest of the sofa for support. I could feel the earth in motion under my feet. My vision blurred even as I tried to focus and grope my way to the ringing, tripping over the carpet bend in the middle of the living room. I must have hurt my knee as I fell because I found it difficult to stand up and regain my posture. The ringing continued, and I, partly crawling and partly walking, made it to my study table to hear the ring get cut off. I must have fallen again then because when I woke up next I was surrounded by a heap of tax papers, news articles and a couple of books. My table had overturned and had a leg broken. I sat up rubbing my head. My knee hurt, and my arm was bruised.
My phone rang underneath the heaps of papers and books. Luckily the mobile phone hadn’t broken during the fall. It had probably been ringing all night. A glance at the clock told me that it was already ten in the morning, and I knew I had to get up. I shifted the papers, and found my phone lying upside down, but thankfully not damaged. It was still ringing, and I was just in time to answer it.
“Roger? Is that you?”
I felt my heart stop. I gripped the phone tightly and leaned against the wall for support. The familiarity of the voice made my heart skip a beat.
“I hope you’re free today. I was wondering if we could grab some lunch.”
It was finally happening. I had waited for this call all month long, and now finally she decided to call. I fixed a time and place to meet with her, and hung up the call in haste. I promised to meet up with her at 1 PM sharp, at The Penguin’s Lunch which is near St Gabriel’s Street. Ten minutes later, I was in a rush. My excitement level knew no bounds and I had cleared up the mess from last night. My clothes were a bit difficult to find, as I had to scuffle about in the pile of clothes that I had taken out a couple of weeks ago. Having found a perfect suit, I rushed into the bathroom for a quick bath and a good shave.
Half an hour later, I ate the breakfast that I had prepared for myself while I listened to The Backstreet Boys. They were starting to get popular now and had made it to the list of cassettes I bragged about. I had just enough time to get rid of all the mess that I had accumulated over the month and put my house in order. Then I changed into my Sunday suit, a blood-red shirt and debated between a bow and a tie that I wore to special occasions. I eventually settled for the tie but didn’t wear it immediately. I practised tying the perfect bow, before I gently tucked it away in my suit pocket, meaning to put it on before I met her.
By noon I was ready to leave. The car hadn’t been used for a while now, and it cried for a good clean-up and some oil but presently, I didn’t have the time to cater to the car. I decided I’d take the taxi. I had just enough cash on me to get me to the restaurant and spend on my food (just in case so I didn’t lose face.). I summoned a taxi and with an air of importance, ordered “The Penguin’s Lunch... And make it quick mate. I don’t like to keep my lady waiting.”
“Right you are, sir”, and he sped off.
I gave the man a huge tip on my arrival at The Penguin’s Lunch. I was early of course, just like I had intended. I wasn’t going to be late to meet her at any cost. I watched the taxi leave and turned to face the old familiar restaurant. I had my share of memories with this place. It was as beautiful as it had always been. It was an ‘open restaurant’, the ones where you could eat outside with a beautiful view of the garden. There was, of course, an interior seating area, but I preferred the view of the garden. It was a pretty sight, one that is ideally designed for those in love, so they could gaze at the beautiful sunflowers and hear the birds chirp as they await their food. I made my way to one of the tables allotted for two, and I sat down there waiting for her.
At about ten minutes to one, I saw a pretty lady in a long dress walk in. She stopped at the gate and looked around for me. Instinctively, I waved out to her and it caught her attention. A familiar smile spread across her face, and she made her way to my table. I couldn’t help but notice that she looked a lot prettier since I last saw her. She had grown her hair longer, and looked much more relaxed than I did. I felt my stomach lunge as she approached my table, and I stood up to greet her. She hugged me with confidence and I meekly planted a kiss on her cheek. The old familiar aroma of her perfume filled my nostrils and made my pulse race.
“You look... lovely” I found myself telling her. It was a bit of a stab to see her settled down and happier than I was, but again, she had always been the kind of lady who knew how to go about with her things.
“And you,” she said, glancing at my appearance, “don’t look so bad yourself. I hope you are keeping well?”
“I am” I lied.
“Well, there was something that I had to give you,” she said, and reached into her handbag that she was carrying with her, but she was interrupted by a waiter who had come in to take our orders.
“Give us a minute,” she told him, and picked up the menu and studied it. “Would you like to try something Chinese today?”
“I’ll have whatever you are having,” I told her. “But I would like to have a drink” which I hoped would help boost my confidence and brighten up this meeting. I saw her hands tremble for a second, then she looked away from the menu and at me with a stern look.
“Please don’t” And for the first time since I met her on that day, I heard a shiver in her voice- Just like old times. Her hand involuntarily moved to the nape of her neck, which displayed a faded bruise. That was the reminder that still feared me.
“Oh! I apologise. I’m sure we’ve both moved on by now”
And I knew I did not. I still loved her, and deep down, I wanted her back in my life. There has been a lot of misunderstanding, and frequent fights. Some of them even led to frequent blows and unnecessary fits of emotion. The final argument we had scarred her for life, and she fled to the arms of Bishop, who was her doctor and as I presumed, her boyfriend.
“How’s Bishop?” I asked out of no concern.
“Oh, he’s doing great. He’s been up and around for a while... You know how the life of a doctor is... busy, busy, busy!”
“And a lot better than the life you had with me?”
“Roger, I... don’t think we should talk about that”
The waiter returned to take our order. He noticed the atmosphere changing at our table, and he rushed through our order. He didn’t want to be caught up in the middle of an argument or be a part of it.
I was beginning to lose my cool. When is she ever going to talk about it? I had come in with the hope that she and I would mend things between us, but she wouldn’t just give me a chance.
“I love you” I blurted.
“I said, I love you!”
“Why are you making this so difficult, love? I know you still love me. It’s time we put the past behind us.”
“I tried,” She said. “I tried to love you. I tried to convince myself that every strike would be the last and that it was just a mistake. I tried...”
“But you love me” I interrupted, not sure what I was trying to get at.
“I did,” She said, and reached into her handbag, and pulled out an envelope. She flung it at the table, and said “I’d like it if you could come too”
I held the invitation letter for her marriage to Bishop. They were due to get married the day after. I read the contents with a heavy heart, unable to believe my eyes. She stood up presently and apologised. Then, she turned around and walked out of my life forever.
I signalled to the waiter-
“A bottle of dark rum, please”
I stumbled into a taxi, my breath reeking of alcohol. I blurted out the address to the driver and placed myself in his hands. I lay back on the seat and cried till my eyes hurt. Hopes of my love had been wasted. I had loved her a lot, and yet she wouldn’t see that in me. I felt torn and trampled upon. I felt jealous of Bishop and I envied him for having the courage to court my lady. It was a competition that he wanted, and I deserved to be respected. She belonged to me, and only I had authority over her.
Leaning over, I blurted out another address to the taxi driver who obediently followed my command. I stopped him a few blocks away, and I paid him with all the money I had. I dragged myself out of the taxi and walked myself to the house. I sipped on the rum with every step, boosting my confidence and my ego. Ten minutes later, I stood in front of a doorway and drank the remainder of my rum. I didn’t want good rum to go to waste. And only then did I knock on the door.
The door was answered by a young man not a year older than me.
My bottle came down heavily on his head. It shattered into a thousand pieces and broke his skull with a loud crack. He reeled backwards and fell to the ground. I helped myself into the house, and smiled warmly at him, and just for the sake of mutual pleasure I knelt beside him and drove the broken end of the bottle into his stomach. I stood there for a moment as I watched him squirm and bleed. He eventually got tired and decided to stay still, acknowledging his defeat.
My excitement knew no bounds, as I made my way to the bedroom upstairs. I didn’t care to knock, and I saw her asleep on the bed. Poor child- I thought- she must have been so tired. I tiptoed my way to her bed and gently tucked myself in beside her. Finally, she would be mine, forever. I wouldn’t let her slip away again. I had waited for this moment for long, and she was now beside me, so full of love and admiration.
She lay still and motionless for a long time. Something didn’t seem right. I placed my hand on her bosom and gave her a light shake, but she didn’t stir. She didn’t move. She didn’t open her eyes. I shook her, more violently this time and again she didn’t even move a muscle. Instead, a loud clinking noise startled me. I looked down and noticed a small pocket knife, almost the size of my little finger that had fallen out of the blanket. The blade of the pocket knife had been stained with fresh blood.
I began to feel uneasy. With a single swish, I removed the blanket that had been covering her, and to my horror, I discovered the bed stained with blood. A sharp cut had been carved deeply into her throat and was still dripping with fresh blood.
My pulse raced and I felt the world crumble around me. I grabbed the bedside table and sat down on the bed unsure of what I was supposed to do. I noticed a little raise in her hand and her fists were clenched tight. I dug a finger into her fist and felt a paper. I dug in further and successfully managed to free the piece of paper.
Holding it to the light, I tried to focus on the scribbled illegible handwriting. It seemed to be a crumpled up letter addressed to Bishop. The letter read-
I simply cannot do this any longer. It grows difficult each day. It was difficult meeting him… and it is difficult knowing that I am managing each day still in love with him. I simply cannot do this any longer…
I held on to that piece of paper and cried, not certain what I was supposed to do. Everything seemed over in just a single moment.
Reality dawned. I realised that I was still seated there with two people dead in the house, one whom I had just murdered. I stood up and ran, blindly stumbling down the stairs. I fell down heavily and watched as Bishop stared at me with a smug smile and lifeless eyes. .
He may have lost, but somehow he had his way in this rat race.
I rushed out, my eyes burning with fear and sadness. It was only when I finally reached the road that I sat down and cried. I reached into my coat pocket for a handkerchief, but all I found was the tie that I wore to special occasions.
-Damian Don Williams