I am falling: a never-ending fall. I have never felt such peace. I am devoid of everything and in that void, I am safe. Somewhere there lies my conscience, pleading with me to never escape this emptiness for what lies beyond is agony. I am trustful of my intuitions; they have made my life simple. I am going to heed to it this time too. Alas! I am aware of the workings of the human mind and body to know that my mindfulness means I am waking up. I do not know what nightmare awaits, but I am certain there is no joy.
My eyes open to a world of light. I am in my bed like every other morning. My head hurts, maybe I had a little too much last night. I could never hold my liquor yet that never prevented me from going on the occasional drinking binge. My brother nor my friends never understands the appeal of this hobby of mine. They believe that I am an 'aspiring alcoholic, and would be the first of that kind. I have no plans to become an alcoholic. It is time-consuming and though I enjoy the occasional blackouts, I find no appeal in being a walking vegetable. I begin my day as I always do- lying in bed for another hour such that I am almost late for work. I never drink on Sunday nights, maybe I have to pay more attention to drinking habits. Last night was meant to be a drink or two but it is turning out to be the beginning of my worst day. I can't be an alcoholic, at least I do not want to prove everyone right. This has to wait; I am very late now. I have been searching for my laptop for some time now. I cannot find anything. Not my phone. Not the important office papers. I better leave a message at work from the landline and request a later hour for the presentation. I am having a difficult time at work and I am not helping myself by giving them reasons to fire me.
"Hey, Charles! I am sorry but the meeting has to be postponed to the evening. I wouldn't ask if I was not tied up in my emergency. It is my brother, he met with an accident. It's not too serious but I have to be here for him. We don't have anyone else. Sorry…"
It must have been an hour and I have combed my place thrice. I am in a state of absolute panic: I could not find my things and everything seems slightly different. Things are not in their usual places. And there is throbbing pain in my head. When I couldn't take it anymore, I sit on the sofa, hands on my head. The possibility that I have been robbed grew in my mind. Although it explains the missing laptop and phone, it does not explain how my home seems slightly different. Aspirin. I need an aspirin. I was sure that I am getting fired and all that matters now is to retrieve those papers to avoid any lawsuits from my 'former' employers'. Not believing that my place could be robbed and more accepting of the possibility that the culprit could have only been me for I was in the habit of misplacing; I half-rose from the sofa, only to be stopped by the recumbent figure on my carpet.
Lifeless eyes stare at me. I stare back. I am not surprised. I am trying to place the face: she is like a porcelain doll, white with bloody hair plastered on her forehead. The back of the head is smashed in. I did not see that from where I sat, but I knew that her head is caved inside. It is a gory sight. I blink and the girl is gone.
Exasperated with myself, I leave the sofa. I am making an appointment with a psychologist! Memory lapses and hallucinations! I leave a quick message to my brother. A woman passes in the mirror and I pause to look at her. This frail woman, almost malnourished cannot be me. I gape at the transparent specter that I have become.
The smell of blood overpowers my senses yet I couldn't find the source. A dead woman. The killing blow. A faceless assailant. Blood. Brain… flashes before me. They are not the fragments of a nightmare but pieces of my memory. I could feel a light breeze and scent of the sea which was soon lost to the stench of blood. Myybloody hands prevent any escape from the stench. This would be the sight for anyone peeking into my window: a woman wailing and thrashing, desperate to get something off her hands; stopping only to tear the hair off her head.
Exhausted, I withdraw to a corner of my bedroom. It was in this pitiful state that my brother found me. "Oh, Honey. I wish I could have come earlier. I wanted to be near when you woke up. Urgent business took me away. Mrs. Bush should have been here."
He goes on a rant about how irresponsible Mrs. Bush is and that this is the last time he trusts her with anything. I wish Jerry wouldn't talk so loudly or talk at all. I want to return to my void which felt realer than reality. He asks me if I want to hear about what happened and I want nothing more than to make some sense of what my life has come to be. This is what Jerry said:
"I found you unconscious a week ago. We had to break the door open. The hospital scanned your head. There was a bump. Nothing dangerous. You were shifting between a conscious and unconscious state throughout this week. Doctors said you will be fine. But from your ramblings, I don't think you remember much. I wonder if it was all the excitement that made you drink too much, bumped your head, and ended up in a coma. You are going to get help, right?"
"Please get my phone. I have asked for help. Treatment or rehab. I am ready for anything now. I never thought I could go out of control", I believe the smart thing would be to play along with Jerry's theory of my drinking being the cause of my state. I did not want my brother to know that I could be a killer. "Holy shit! Why is my balance 100,000 dollars? Last time I remember I was as poor as a church mouse." I immediately regret saying this aloud, Jerry would be suspicious and I am sure this was blood money.
"You won a lottery and left your job against my warnings. You were pretty excited. We got into a huge fight and did not talk for two weeks. I came last week to make amends. What is the last thing you remember?" Jerry is looking intently at me. He looks only a little better than me. His handsome face is withered with worry.
I check my schedule before replying, "A month ago...To be exact thirty-seven days. I had a meeting that day. I wonder how the meeting went?"I pause to imagine Charles' shock on receiving my message today,"It doesn't matter. They would be glad to get rid of me. So, a week after the meeting, I won the lottery and left my job. Two weeks later, I am in a coma. Did I tell you anything when I called? Did you ask the neighbors if they saw something unusual?"
"You told me you were going to start a business. You had no clue about it. That was why we fought."He wishes we did not fight. If I knew that I was going to end up in a coma, I wouldn't have fought. I miss a part of the conversation so I listen in. "The neighbors hardly see you while you are here. No, they saw nothing. Will you be alright for an hour? I will buy us some food. Thai?"
Once Jerry is gone, I lay in bed, deep in thought. I couldn't murder anybody.I distinctly remember someone killing a woman. I am a witness to murder. Could I be an accomplice? That is preposterous. I condemn murder. I feel a great loss, a deep sadness; like that woman was a kindred spirit. Yet she is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I could not rest without knowing who the unfortunate woman was. What I did next is the most outrageous thing I have ever done- I take my phone and begins calling my relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances of the past and present. That woman is a chameleon, she had the face of the person I am calling till I confirm them to be alive. Immediately, she morphs into the next person on the list. I am now calling everyone I ever knew irrespective of gender. The list approaches the uncomfortable territory of ex-boyfriends. Five down, one to go.
"Hey, It's me. You are good, right? And your mom?", Dylan's mom was a sweet lady and we remained in touch even after the breakup. I am received with stunned silence.
"We are good. How are you?" comes the reply after a minute or two. I quickly hang up after the pleasantries.
After lunch, it takes a lot of effort to assure Jerry that I will be able to take care of myself. He is a busy man,always going places and I am not to become a burden to him if I could.
"I have this business trip to France but you say the word I will be here.Love you, sister."
I am staring at the spot where the woman had laid, when the doorbell rang. I could not live a second more with Jerry mothering me! I thank the heavens that made me look through the peephole before opening the door. Detective. Dylan Murdock stands on my front door in all his glory. Our break up was somewhat ugly. So, him checking on me after my strange behavior in the afternoon is quite touching. All good feelings soon evaporates and skepticism remains. I could be opening my door to a murderer without any precautions. I think it is clever of me to open the door pretending to be in conversation with my brother. I take care to announce 'Dylan, my ex-boyfriend's visit' to my brother quite loudly.
"What's wrong Teresa? You were weird on phone. It sounded like you were in trouble. Can I help you in any way?" I am quick to diminish his concerns. Though he is not satisfied, Dylan did not press further. We make small talk and I am scrutinizing his gestures, words, and possible motives. From all the time I knew him, he wouldn't kill for the good of the world. He is an honest cop who happens to have the resources to help me and he is not a petty person to refuse help over a breakup.
"I think I witnessed a murder. I do not know this woman. I don't even know where the murder happened. Probably near the sea. I might be the most unreliable witness you ever came across because I remember nothing. Nada....But a woman was killed. You can be sure of that. I know this sounds crazy…Alright? Will you help me for old times' sake?" I pleaded.
Without batting an eye, Dylan asks me the victim's profile. He expects this to be a prank and I did not care what he thought as long as he helps me. It is his choice to amuse me. It must have been a slow day at the precinct.
"Female. Dark hair and eyes. Arab maybe…," I concentrate hard and a clearer image of the woman appears before me, "Flowery dress, Beach hat. It was near the sea. The killer was a man. He bashed the behind of her head repeatedly."
"A crime of passion. I will check with my colleagues about any incidents along the bay side; missing women in the city is worth looking too…"
While Dylan is on phone I try to focus more and see if I could remember any helpful details. I give up eventually. The stress causes me to drift off. I am woken up by a disgruntled Dylan. He is losing patience with me.
"My colleagues could not find anything that coincided with your description. It was a pretty vague one. I looked into people you might know. Nothing came out of that. I took the liberty and shared your phone number and email with my colleagues. They are going to dig into it. I hope you don't mind. They will need a day. I will call you." He picked his coat and left.
My night is filled with dead women and faceless killers. I wait for Dylan's call all morning. He is a busy detective and might have decided that he had wasted enough time on his ex-girlfriend. I must don the detective hat now. I am sitting in my garden,pondering on how to proceed,when I see Dylan approach. His face is stern. Today, he is carrier of bad news, I thought. Dylan wouldn't say a word until we are inside.
"What kind of trouble did you come by, T?"
"I killed someone. Didn't I?" I was sniveling.
"Girl, your call details, mail, travel info, all point to your non-existence for two weeks. You reappear in the system last week in some hospital records. If I ever thought you were bluffing, I am convinced now that you aren't. Neither do you have the skills nor do you know anyone twho could wipe your trail squeaky clean. I am baffled." He is pacing in my kitchen with great fervor," I am in the middle of a case right now. I will try to look into the matter."
"I don't think it was a crime of passion. The man's face...It was unfeeling. Calculating. I think the mode of murder was deliberate, to mislead the authorities."
"I believe you. The murder was planned to the minutes detail. These people are experts and you knocked their plans by walking in."
"Would you suggest I file a complaint with the police, then?"
"Nah. There is a lack of evidence and a lack of victim. There is nothing to build a case. Maybe a private eye could take up the case. I wish you would give me two more days before you take it up with a private investigator."
Dylan is unable to find anything in two days. I could say he is dejected and tired as he sits on my sofa. He has been keeping me in the loop throughout the investigation and this looks like his final monolouge. "This is what we know, you were planning to travel. I don't know where. I am sure it was abroad and the murder happened there. I imagine these people to be members of a crime syndicate or assassin. You could be in danger. I am placing some people on your tail. Please don't argue about that. Your dementia might be the reason you are alive. And here is the part you don't want to hear." He presses my hand," I want you to leave the matter for your safety. I promise you I will keep an eye open--"
"You are a detective. Don't you care about justice and punishment?"
"Isn't me not caring one of the reasons we broke up?" he smiled weakly. He has made his mind. This is the termination of his investigation into the the void in my life, at least temporarily. I wish it was successful final monolouge.
Maybe it is for the best. The woman will haunt me forever. At least I will be alive while she is not.
Sea breeze hits my face. I am sorry to say goodbye to this place. This town was kind to me. I am not a fan of coincidences and they rarely happen to me. Last month taught me that I was not a fan of coincidences. Teresa choosing my island for vacation and befriending my target was the most unnerving occurrence. I was almost sorry to kill Ava. She was a good influence on T. But, my handlers would not hear about it. They wanted to kill my sister. Like I would let them! I had to beg them to let her go. I told them she would never implicate her brother. Thankfully the shock of seeing me and her fall caused her to lose some of her memory. They are watching her and I am watching them, ready to pounce should they ever make a move against Teresa.