BATTENBURGS AND LEMON DRIZZLERS
BY ANGELA MCCABE
Ladakhi women in tall hats,
long plaits and turquoise capes,
grind all day the nuts
into pure almond oil,
sing Hoi Cho Cho Lay Song.
Now yellow cream caresses my face,
transports me to a time
when we chopped almonds,
made marzipan for Christmas cakes,
Battenburgs and Lemon Drizzlers.
Irish women baking in floral aprons
and A line skirts.
Drop by drop of measured time,
my friend’s skin
welcomes the healing liquid.
down the deep curve of her spine.
Me singing the song
of the Turquoise women.
My hands dance along her buttocks.
Knead, roll, pummel,
arms, legs, feet glisten.
Her long plaits tied up.
Me wearing a Ladakhi amulet
and a Claddagh necklace.
Arthur is what many call a fanatic of murder mysteries. Living in Ontario's Near-North for most of his 58 years, he spends much of his free time since retirement watching, taking in and writing about the shadowy goings on of fictitious everyday Canadians. This is his first foray into publication.
That morning, he woke up with a sharp gasp and an idea stuck in his mind. He rubbed his eyes with hairy, thick knuckles – a woman once had told him that they seemed to belong to an ape. Then, he just relaxed.
Yeah, why the hell not? It was a good idea, actually, a great idea, after all. He’d strike two flies with the same blow.
The move was smart and long overdue. He’d been thinking a lot about doing something but he was smart enough not to put his neck into the noose. His burning wish was for revenge not suicide.
Energized, he jumped out of bed and went into the small bathroom. Everything around him was skimpy. He had downsized everything since that fatidic morning. Had he downsized more, he’d have vanished completely.
Huh, living off the grid had his perks. No one could trace his moves, and, more than that, no one really knew if he existed. Or to be accurate, no one knew if he still existed anymore.
He started shaving, driving the blade closely to the skin, careful not to leave marks on his face. People remembered a goatee, a shaved skull with a tattoo at the back, and now he managed to move around without shaking any memories loose. No one had seen him like that since he enlisted ten years ago.
He looked at himself in the mirror, and for the first time in the last four months, he could look at himself, into his eyes, without shame or guilt. He finally had a plan.
She had died in that dirty alley, behind the smelly dumpster, rain slapping her face furiously, wind playing with the hair splattered with blood, her lifeless eyes staring at the overcast sky. And while she was dying, crying and probably begging for mercy or help, he was drinking his mind in a bar not far away.
He’d thought he’d have time to reconnect with her and to do all the things he’d put on hold for ten years. He’d thought he deserved a night with friends he’d not seen for too long to dwell on the years that had already passed and to get shitfaced like a stupid teenager in a feat of rebellion.
Choices! In the end, all that was, it was choices. Or mistakes. Or fate. Or the hell knows what. The bottom line was that she had died there because he’d been too bent on drinking beer and boasting like a stupid teenager with the eye only on the moment not on the bigger picture. He had to pay a price in the end but not before the actual killers would pay theirs.
He already knew the woman’s schedule. She’d sleep all morning, getting up somewhere after noon, with a raging hangover and pissed off that life would deal her some shitty cards. Then, she would yell a bit at the kids playing in the yard across the street, their yelling cutting like a blade through her numb brain. Then she would start prowling the streets, looking for the next dude able to buy her enough drinks to keep her living through the night. In the wee hours of the morning, she’d return home – if that shackled house could be called home, and she’d turn into bed, without even taking off her scruffy boots and the clothes smelling of cheap booze and smoke.
He’d visited her house in the past and she hadn’t winked. He’d been careful not to leave any trace of his passing and to survey all the exits and the vantage points from the street and houses nearby. Her back door was opening over a yard full of junk and beyond the back fence, there were the rail tracks. No one to see him coming and going. This time, his purpose was very precise: he’d seen her using the big kitchen knife a few times and once she’d even nicked her finger cutting into stale bread. She hadn’t bothered to wash it afterwards and he doubted she’d done it later on. The blood should have been on that blade if not on the hilt: exactly what he needed to see the job done.
He put on a pair of thick surgical gloves and lifted the knife. He checked the traces of blood and the corners of his mouth smirked: the blood was still there as he’d expected. Just fine for what he had in mind. He bagged the knife in a clean plastic bag he’d just torn from a roll he’d brought with him and then took her soiled jacket and put it into another bag.
He looked around surveying the space, saw that nothing was out of place and that he’d left nothing behind. Only then, he left.
Now he had to move faster. He was working against the clock and he couldn’t do a rush job if he wanted them to pay. Rushing too much would mean losing attention on the details and having one of them escaping their fate and that wouldn’t do. They had to pay for what they’d done.
Initially he’d tried the police but that lazy detective couldn’t move his ass fast enough and couldn’t be bothered to check something that was not screaming in his face. He’d already taken care of him. He’d messed with his head for a few months, scared him to death and helped him hallucinate a great deal – after all, he knew exactly what drug to use and how often so that the big fat lazy detective couldn’t run away from what it was pre-ordained in his destiny. He’d finally made use of his service gun and put a 9 mm through his skull. It’d been a neat job even though there’d been blood everywhere. He’d seen everything from his hiding place using a very strong lens.
Now, everything had to come to an end. He’d finally mastered the plan to get the best results and have the best revenge. The one that had used the knife on his girlfriend would die by the knife. The one that instigated the murder and the desecration of that sweet woman’s life would go behind bars for the rest of her fucking life.
He knew where to find him as he’d cased the joint for a few months already. It’d been difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when he’d find him alone as he was living in a house with two other guys but his work was made easier because the other two started working in a scrap garage and in the mornings they were busy there.
He knew he’d find him with his brains full of the vapor of the alcohol. He’d have preferred to find him sober so that he could be sure that he’d grasp the significance of his early demise but he couldn’t bank on that. He was rarely sober and even then just for a short time and usually when he was surrounded by people. His plan didn’t allow for other people’s presence.
It was a dump in a very “nice” neighborhood. Luckily, mornings were not very animated and he’d learned to be one with the environment. However, this time, he didn’t want any kind of doubt concerning the killer.
He entered through the back door, which was always open. It would have been difficult to lock it as the door couldn’t be closed. The jamb had been nicked in the past and there was no way to close the door. In winter, it must have been a living hell with the chilly air coming in. The southern location of the town made it easy, he supposed. No blizzards like the ones in the east or snow.
After getting inside, he listened for any noise that would warn him that other people were there but heard nothing. He stopped in the kitchen to put on his thick gloves and to wrap the soiled jacket he’d taken from the woman’s house around his body over the plastic he’d already covered himself with. It was a little small but blood splatter would be found on it anyway, so no big deal.
He advanced silently on the corridor leading to the room he knew by heart now and opened the door.
The intended victim was lying on his stomach with his arms folded underneath, exactly in the position he’d fallen in the bed.
He jerked his head up, slapped him soundly and pressed the knife over the skin of his cheek, from the eye to the corner of his mouth. Blood surged and trickled on the pillow. A growl of pain emerged and his eyelids shot up.
“What the fuck…”
He couldn’t finish as a low voice said:
“You’d better shut up, asshole! This is judgement day and you have to reckon all your sins before going to meet your maker!”
He found delight in seeing the fear swimming in the pools of the eyes full of tears.
“Do you remember little Juanita?”
For a moment, it seemed that Juanita’s memory had been erased from the killer’s mind but then, something clicked, and understanding brought animalistic fear in his eyes. He tried to get away but the blade of the knife left a mark on his throat, not deep enough to kill but deep enough to hurt.
“Juanita was a sweet girl who’d done nothing to you! Because that bitch’s boyfriend tried to charm her, she had you kill her but first you had to torture her to satisfy the bitch. Well, now, it is your turn,” he said slashing a line through the shirt over the killer’s (soon-to-be a victim) chest.
The man trashed around trying to escape but the force of the arm holding him down was too much for him. He started yelling, with each slash, till a final move slashed his throat. Blood gushed out, staining the woman’s jacket.
He got off the bed and checked for blood anywhere around the bed. It wouldn’t do leave any bloody prints around, even though he’d taken the caution to cover his shoes with plastic shoes, like the ones used in the hospital. It was a good thing to know a woman or two working in a hospital. Satisfied that there was no danger to do that, he went to the kitchen and carefully bagged the bloody jacket. Then he took off the plastic and bagged it. He checked every piece of his clothing, took off the plastic covering his shoes, the shower cap he’d covered his hair with and checked everything around to be sure he’d left nothing of himself behind.
He left the house through the same back door and in a few minutes reached the old rusty truck he’d left on a side street. He drove to the woman’s house and carefully got inside and left the jacket on the sofa. He left silently and drove to the other end of the town where he threw the bloody plastics in a dumpster.
Then, he came back towards downtown. Downtown, he stopped his car and placed the call.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“I want to report a crime, I think,” he said with a high-pitched voice. “I saw a woman coming out of a house on …. Street, from number 10 and she had blood on her. She was behaving strangely. I’ve seen her before although lately she hasn’t come around so much. Her name is Cissy Dollan, I think. I know she lives on …. Street.”
“What’s your name?”
“No, no, no. No name. Just my duty,” he stammered and put the receiver down.
The area was crowded enough and no one was paying attention to him. He started walking down the street towards his car. His step was lazy like he had no hurry or worry in the world. Well, he didn’t. He’d already taken care of that.
The next evening, having a beer in front of the TV, he heard the News speaker saying:
“The police made an arrest in the killing of Harry Camden. They arrested Cissy Dolan and she will be charged with first degree murder. Police sources intimated that there was a similarity with the death of Juanita Gonzales and they want to move towards charging Dolan with her death as well”.
Finally, he released a raspy breath and murmured: “At last, I got your revenge, babe!”