Charlotte’s sister has finally stopped breathing, and the last of the air escapes from her bruised lungs as bubbles that float from between parted lips. She lies face up in the bathtub, fully submerged in soggy clothes. The breezeblock across her chest firmly holds her form beneath the surface of the water. After the sheer frenzy of the scene that has just played out, she looks remarkably peaceful. Her snow-white face is bloated by the refraction of restless water, and her long dark hair billows, defying gravity as it does so. She died with her eyes open, though the fierce passion and anger that had previously burned in them has now subsided and her tears are now indistinguishable from the bathwater. The family resemblance between Charlotte and her is suddenly unmistakable. The puce flows of blood from where I’ve caved in the side of her head with the concrete block begin to discolour the water around her head. The sheer scarlet is a macabre contrast to the stark white bathroom suite, which is clinical in appearance, though it matches the red hue of her dress rather well.
I catch my reflection in the mirror above the sink. My work clothes are conservative. I’m wearing a tight navy blue sweater over a plain white collared shirt, and khaki chinos. I look incredibly normal. I feel a dull ache on my left side and I see that Charlotte’s sister’s earlier attempts to stab me weren’t entirely in vain. Blood has started to soak across the front of my jumper, though I don’t think that the wound acting as its source is especially deep. As the adrenaline in my bloodstream begins to dissipate, an awesome wave overcomes me quite from nowhere and I feel like I’m going to be sick. I stagger and collapse against the side of the bathtub and hold my head in my hands and I notice that my brow is sodden with a mixture of sweat and hair wax and that the white tiled floor is near flooded with the water thrown from the bath as Charlotte’s sister frantically struggled against her submergence. Of all the things that I could be feeling right now, it’s the cold water presently seeping into my trousers that takes mental precedence. I’ve never killed anybody before and I quickly decide that I didn’t enjoy doing so and that I’m going to do my best to not kill anyone ever again… Had the act have been premeditated, I suppose I may have experienced more of a power rush as I saw the light in her eyes extinguish. Her murder had been far from an act of wanton sadistic pleasure. With any kind of retrospect, however, it’s easy to say that I should have seen something like this coming.
I spend an indeterminable period of time sat against the bathtub – somewhere between fifteen minutes and five hours, though I’m not altogether sure. I simply can’t make myself stand. I spend most of this time crying, and now I’m thinking about how on earth I’m going to deal with everything that has happened. Deep down I know that the whole situation is completely irreparable, and this makes me cry again. My side really starts to hurt, and I’m suddenly scared that I’m going to bleed out. I stand, and leave Charlotte’s sister’s body, and walk back into the kitchen, carefully picking my way through the shards of green glass and knives and books and magazines that seem to be everywhere. I hold a tea towel to my side and apply pressure to the wound, because I think that’s what I’m supposed to do, even though it hurts like absolute hell to do so. I decide that since I’ve been through a lot tonight, I’m going to give myself until the morning before tidying the place. I need to get to Charlotte before it’s too late. I start to feel incredibly light headed, and I suddenly throw up. My vomit tastes like iron and is dark red in colour. My legs give way and I drop down to the floor and I try to speculate as to how deep the wound on my side actually is. I think I’ve fallen straight onto a particularly large sliver of glass, and this annoys me. I reach into my pocket for my phone but it’s not there and this annoys me even more. I’m in the throes of losing consciousness and I wonder if I’m going to die, and I conclude that I probably shall. I feel guilty because I know that if I don’t wake up then Charlotte probably won’t make it either and this is all that I can think about as my eyes close and I slip under.
The woman had caught me entirely off-guard, and it takes me longer than it should do to realise that it is indeed Charlotte’s sister. Their hair is the same shade of dark brown, and they both possess an innate beauty that I find insatiably attractive, though at this particular moment I’m obviously unable to have anything like a romantic thought towards her, since I’m swelling with vitriolic fury. She’s not doing anything. She just stands there at my bedroom door, open-mouthed, her expression vacuous, inhuman. We make eye contact for a split second that seems to protract for hours. I see the fight or flight decision form in her eyes, and she ultimately chooses the latter, bolting from my bedroom’s threshold in the direction of an exit, and I’m immediately spurred into action. With subconscious, animalistic instinct, I leap from my knelt position and scramble to my feet, tripping over my king-sized bed as I do so, only just avoiding the bloody knife that lies on my bedroom floor. I yell at her to come back, though somewhat unsurprisingly, she doesn’t, because she knows that I’m going to hurt her badly. I don’t have much of a chance to think about what my next move is going to be. I don’t know how long Charlotte’s sister’s been in my apartment, and I’m confounded as to how I failed to detect her presence in the ten minutes since I arrived home from work. Although her route along the hallway from my bedroom could have taken her to the front door, she has chosen to run to the open plan kitchen living area, which is brand new and modern and expensive.
Charlotte’s sister did not use the ten-second advantage she had over me to any great effect, and as I run after her into the kitchen, she looks as clueless as to her next move as I am. She screams something at me, but through the insanity of the situation that we both find ourselves in, she is either unable to form coherent sentences, or I’m incapable of processing whatever it is that she’s saying. I think she shouts the words ‘love’ and ‘go’ and ‘Charlotte’ and ‘kill’ several times. She is so very scared, though she also looks incredibly angry and we stand some ten feet away from each other as if it’s high noon and we’re in some Western film and we’re about to duel. We stare right into each other’s eyes and we both twitch, bluffing action. She eventually makes the first move, and she bids for the unopened bottle of red wine on the veneered oak work surface. She launches it in my direction, and it shatters like a burgundy firework against the wall behind me. She quickly glances around, and sees an armoury – an expensive knife block sat next to where the wine bottle had stood. She wields a blade in a fashion that makes it patently obvious that she still doesn’t know what she’s doing. Before I have chance to counter, she’s thrown the knife straight at me, missing my face by inches, and then she’s repeating the action, and there’s paring knives and bread knives and meat cleavers flying everywhere, though her aim is reprehensibly bad and I’m able to successfully dodge each of them. She’s down to the last knife from the block and I know that she’s not stupid enough to throw it. I’m fully prepared when she lunges and I’m able to grab hold of her wrist. She slashes the air in my vicinity repeatedly, wailing, maddened, primal.
I snatch at her throat with my free hand, and catch her off-balance. I feel her larynx crack in my grip. The knife falls from her hand as I throw her against a bookcase on the wall with a force I did not realise I possessed, sending novels and magazines and photo frames crashing to the laminate wood floor. I hold her against the wall and plant the back of my right hand into her cheek with the kind of shatter indicative of a fracture. I’ve never hit a woman before and I can’t say I took a particular pleasure from doing so. Whilst I’m distracted by the moral and social significances of what I’ve done, Charlotte’s sister sinks a fist into my gut and winds me quite thoroughly. She successfully escapes from my hold and I’m quite sure that she’s finally going to run free from the apartment. Yet she doesn’t. She just stares at me, as she did when she had first found me in my bedroom. As I’m bent double from her punch, I see a new weapon. I force breath back into my lungs, and run to the coffee table stood against the adjacent wall, constructed in a minimalist style from a thick sheet of birch wood, sat atop two concrete breezeblocks.
Charlotte’s sister immediately comprehends my intentions. I grab a hold of one of the breezeblocks, sending the table top and whatever sat upon it tumbling to the ground amongst the fallen contents of the bookshelf. She had perhaps been gifted a five second window of opportunity to make a fruitful bid for freedom, yet she somehow contains the urge to run away and she squanders these precious moments rooted to the spot, evidently paralysed by serotonin. By the time I’m approaching her, I know just as well as she does that her only option is to try and wrestle the block from my hands, and that’s precisely what she attempts. We shuffle back and forth, muscle to muscle and toe to toe, holding onto either end of the concrete. As she looks into my eyes I see that she’s crying profusely and there’s a slight red swelling on her cheek where I hit her. She coughs and splutters pistol shots through the flow of tears and I finally wrench the breezeblock from her. She turns and runs but she doesn’t know where she’s going and I give chase down the hallway and I grab her jacket with my free hand but she wriggles free and we’re in the bathroom and I swing the breezeblock from above my head and she falls into the bath and I force her convulsing body under the water by holding the breezeblock against her chest and it takes a much longer time than I expect for her to be still.
My day has been a difficult one, and I don’t remember ever being as grateful to arrive home as I am right now. The apartment is incredibly quiet, and at first the sheer serenity of the place fills me with suspicion, though I simply reason that Charlotte is most likely still out on her quest for red wine. Wondering through the apartment, I head straight for the bathroom, since I crave the relaxation that only a bath can presently afford me. I unscrew both the hot and cold taps, and the noise of the gushing water that starts to fill the tub is deafening though the relative silence of the flat. I move back into the kitchen and check my phone. I have no missed calls, and this pleases me more than I can possibly express. I notice that there is a bottle of red wine on the counter, and I am suddenly forced to come up with a new explanation for Charlotte’s absence. I ponder it over for a little while but no particularly convincing arguments are forthcoming. I remember that I need to turn off the taps in the bathroom, which is what I do next. I check my phone and confirm that Charlotte had indeed sent me a message saying that she had gone to get wine, but I then realise that she sent the message a couple of hours ago and none of it sheds any light on anything. I quickly put my head around the door of our bedroom, which is the only room that I have yet to be in since arriving home and I see nothing untoward. Paranoia begins to creep into me when I think about the events of recent days, especially after what happened at lunchtime.
Heading back to the kitchen I take the next logical step, and I call Charlotte’s mobile phone. I hear the ringtone. It’s incredibly muffled and it’s coming from the bedroom, so I walk back down the hallway and I open the bedroom door with absolute caution and I still hear ringing. I struggle to decipher its exact location at first and the call goes to answerphone before I have a chance to do so. I ring the number again and it’s coming from the wardrobe and I see a roll of silver duct tape on the bed and I run over to the wardrobe dropping my phone to the carpet and I pull the wardrobe door open and I scream out loud. Charlotte is hunched on the floor of the wardrobe and bent double and her wrists and ankles are bound together into a single bunch in front of her with a thick layer of silver duct tape, which is in turn attached to the clothes rail above her with long trails of tape, completely restricting her movement. She had a single rectangle across her mouth. Her tear-soaked eyes are filled with a terror that I’ve never seen before. I kneel down and try and rip the tape from her wrists and ankles but it’s tightly wound and my efforts go unrewarded. Charlotte’s trying to scream but she can’t. I apologise in advance because I know that what I’m about to do is going to hurt her. With a sickening rip, the tape comes from her mouth in one go, taking skin from her lips with it. She chokes and coughs and splutters and I see blood trickle from her mouth and I suddenly notice that her black dress is wet and glistening and I put my fingers to it and against the pale skin of my fingertips I see that she is bleeding but I don’t know where from. The gravity of what I’m seeing is overwhelming and I’m overflowing with venom and rage and helplessness and panic. I scream and demand to know who has done this to her but she’s apparently incapable of speech and she just keeps coughing, even though I know that she’s trying desperately to answer my question. Her head is suddenly motioning violently over my shoulder. I don’t want to look away from my helpless wife, but I turn around through fear. A woman is standing at the bedroom door and she is holding a knife and I can see that it too glistens red with blood. She stares, aghast at the scene before her and she’s shaking uncontrollably and she drops the blade onto the floor.
I’m irritated that Charlotte’s sister has managed to get hold of my new phone number. I decide, however, that there is only so long that I can ignore her barrage of calls and messages, since I realise that she will not stop of her own accord. She seems surprised when I call her and I tell her to come and meet me outside my office at lunchtime. She states with a sultry confidence that she will be there. Over the course of the morning I consider rescinding my offer and cancelling, though I ultimately stay true to my word and I meet her outside. The day is incredibly fine and she’s well made up and her red dress is beautiful and revealing but I’m determined that I’m not going to be distracted and I recite the speech that I have been preparing since our earlier phone conversation. I tell her that what I did with her had been a stupid mistake and that she needs to stop calling me and that she needs to forget any ideas that she has about me leaving Charlotte for her, but she just isn’t listening to me. She tells me that she hates Charlotte with a fervent passion for stealing me from her. She tells me that she loves me so, and when I try to turn back inside she grabs my arm and begs me not to go. Having unsuccessfully tried to placate her with firm diplomacy, I start to say vile things to her in a bid to make her hate me. I tell her that I wish she were dead. It cuts me really quite deeply to lie to her in such an odious manner. She’s on the cusp of tears, but my plan seems to work. I’m relieved when after a short period of near silent contemplation she tells me that she’s finally going to let me go and after today I’ll not ever see or hear from her ever again.