Fiction, Melbourne, Relationship and marriage, Writing

The body (short fiction)

Dave steps over the threshold and into the dark hallway. He snaps a pair of blue gloves on his hands.

The house is quiet. Blinds and curtains drawn to block out any source of natural light. Under his feet, the rug on the floor squelches; looking down to the floor, even in the dimness, he can make out dust and hair collecting in clumps by the skirting boards.

‘Anybody home?’ he calls.

He’s not expecting a response, but it pays to ask. He reaches the first door, on his left; it’s shut. He turns the handle. The door makes a shuuush noise as it glides over carpet. He flicks on the light switch, the room floods with brightness. His eyes blink as they adjust.

In the centre of the room lies a king-size bed. It’s unmade, sheets crumpled, the doona partly covering the bed, partly on the floor. Off to his left another door is ajar. He tentatively walks over, pushes it open to reveal a walk-in robe and further still, an en-suite. He needs to piss, so he goes forward. A skylight and frosted window provide enough light for him to see this bathroom is bigger than the one in his apartment: two sinks, a wet area with the largest shower-head he’s ever seen, and a bidet. Shining, heated towel racks—sans towels, he notices—on the wall, next to which hangs a framed, stylish and colourful piece of artwork, signed by the artist. He squints his eyes, can’t make out the signature. Who has art in their bathroom, Dave muses. He slips off one glove, unzips his fly and pisses. He flushes the toilet using his gloved hand, but the cistern doesn’t refill itself. He turns on the tap in one of the sinks to wash his hand; the trickling flow confirms the water is switched off at the mains.

Odd. Water disconnected, but the electricity is still running. Clothes in the robe. He trails his hands over them while he walks past.

Back in the hallway, Dave notices the next room has no door, which offers a view from the hallway of a stately dining table, with chairs neatly tucked in place, save for one. Its toppled over, one wooden leg snapped cleanly halfway from the base to the seat. There’s a fireplace, too. He strides over: cold, clean, unused.

Light from the end of the house beckons him further. He ignores the other rooms. At the hallway’s end, he finds a cavernous living area: kitchen with shiny, stainless steel appliances and marble bench tops, stools at a breakfast bar, another table and chairs. By the floor-to-ceiling windows lies a long, comfy couch. A low coffee table has strategically placed magazines on top, and a stack of them underneath. An empty wine glass is lying on the floor.

Standing in the kitchen, Dave sees bread on the cutting board, crumbs scattered over the bench and board. Ants scurry along, transporting crumbs back to their queen, as if trophies of their hard work and devotion. A serrated-edge knife lies next to the board, it too has ants over it. And something else.

Blood.

Dave races over, leans in close to stare without touching it. It’s definitely blood. He sniffs, but can only faintly whiff stale bread. The blood is long-since dried. He stands to his full height; for the first time sees the back yard. Rich green grass, clipped and edged expertly next to a path with stone pavers leads to a pool with crystal blue water. A huge walnut tree on the fence line almost hides the roller door. There must be a right-of-way along the back of this property. He searches for a remote or keys. A plate on a dresser has what must surely be twenty keys; he fiddles and pokes around in dismay until he finds a small remote. He presses its button. The roller door whirs to life. He looks up and gasps.

He runs to the glass sliding door. It’s locked. He picks up a lamp and throws it at the glass, but it bounces back, smashes into pieces when it lands on the polished concrete floor. Fuck! Dave goes back to the plate of keys, brings them back to the door.

Success on the fourth key. He runs outside, leaps over the glass fence at the patio and steps into the lush green grass. Past the walnut tree and out the now-open roller door, her body lies deathly still on the bluestone road. He presses his finger on her neck; she’s still got a pulse. Dave reaches into his pocket for his phone and dials 000.

Ten minutes later the property is swarming with emergency workers. The ambulance has already taken her, sirens wailing as they sped towards The Alfred. More police arrive, they’re dusting for prints and searching for clues of what happened, of why Australia’s most likeable and famous female actress was attacked in her own home.

The media is already encamped, has been for days, since she was reported missing. Bella Campion did not show for the movie’s first day of shooting. Unlike her. Calls from her agent and manager to her phone went unanswered and unreturned. Unlike her. Yesterday, Bella’s agent reported her missing to the police.

Dave and Bella shared a night together about a week ago after meeting at a fundraiser for a mental health charity. He notified his boss as soon as the news broke of her disappearance.

‘You can’t be fucking serious!’ Dave’s boss yelled. ‘Bella Campion’s missing, and you’re telling me you fucked her. You’re possibly the last person to see her alive. Christ on a motor bike, this reeks!’

‘Sir,’ Dave responded.

‘Don’t tell me anymore. I don’t want to know. Just get out of my sight. Take annual leave until she’s found.’

His boss didn’t want to hear Dave’s lead. So he had no choice but to follow it alone. Turns out he did the right thing. He can’t imagine why Bella’s agent and manager hadn’t thought to look harder. He might have saved Bella’s life.

Dave knows he’s in a tricky position. He’s a prime suspect. He didn’t do it. But he’s going to find out who did.

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