Final curtain call
Copyright © 2010 Dick Boldre
Sally watched her mother die. She was just 60.
Over coffee in the
deceased relatives’ room Sally asked her Aunt Angie ‘Did you know my father?’
‘He was a baddie who
let your mother down. She always wanted to act and in 1969 when she was 20 a
certain Justin D’arth invited her to play opposite him. His theatre group are
based in Hastings. He was five
years older than her. They became lovers, she got pregnant for you and he promptly
dropped her for another 20s something.’
‘Is he still
he’s a hoot with audiences but the cast say he’s a self-seeking arrogant
whisky-soaked lecher interested only in women and his latest newspaper reviews.
So when you going back to the States?’ said Angie changing the subject.
the funeral but I might visit Hastings
‘You’ve got to be
Angie knew better
than to argue. Like her late sister she was proud of Sally who was a leading chemist
in the USA. She
never mentioned her work but at rising 40 she appeared to have it all: the
features of a 30s something career girl, good job, long-term partner and two
One phone call was
all it took to locate Justin. He was performing in Hastings’
White Rock Pavilion.
She bought a ticket
for an evening’s performance and from her midway seat had a clear view of the
cast and Justin in particular. So this was her father. The audience loved him.
But the more he played for laughs the greater her distaste. She might have left
matters but for a nasty incident when Justin went for a cheap laugh by openly
abusing a female member of the cast.
That was it –
Before leaving the theatre
Sally checked the group’s summer schedule. She saw Justin would be at the
Pavilion during August. Time enough for planning.
later Sally flew into Gatwick. Her itinerary was routine: meet with Ministry of
Defence representatives, give a presentation on chemical warfare and the
remaining time was hers.
Justin was rehearsing
when someone from The Stage wanted
him on the phone.
He recalled the last time the show biz weekly
mentioned him was after an audition for Hamlet.
‘Hi Sharon Leski
here’ said Sally. I freelance for the
Stage. Could we meet after tomorrow’s show for an interview?’
‘Sure’ was the oily
response. ‘I’ll leave a ticket for you at the box office. It’ll have a pass for
backstage and I’ll see you after the show.
Justin was waiting
as she swept in.
businesslike. ‘Where’s a good place that’s quiet?’
Her deliberate cue was
too good to miss.
‘How about my
apartment? We can walk it in 20 minutes or a cab will get us there in five.’
‘Taxi it’ll give us
more time to talk’ said Sally.
The thought of this
journalist from the Stage writing him
up and, if he was in luck, entertain him was too much.
‘I’ve only got
Scotch,’ leered Justin as they entered his apartment.
‘Water’ll be fine
for me’ said Sally.
slowly. Remember business first and with luck you’ll probably have all night” he
heard a little internal voice say.
‘What are those
books on the shelf Justin?’
‘Reviews – like to
have a look?’
‘Good idea. How
about’ Sally paused for effect, ‘1969?’
Justin reached for
the book marked 1969.
‘Any idea how many
leading ladies you’ve had, Justin?’
He finished the
contents of the glass and began to reach for the bottle.
‘Let me’ said Sally
taking the glass.
His eye caught the
picture on the page Sally had left open. “God wasn’t that?” thought Justin as
he mechanically took the nearly full glass. As he was thinking of leading ladies
he failed to see Sally dropping a capsule into the glass which dissolved on
touching the neat Scotch.
Can’t really say how many leading ladies I’ve had.’ A humming began in his
head, but this often happened when he drank especially in the presence of
someone who was female and attractive.
‘Take this one for
example’ replied Sally pointing to a young-looking girl alongside him in a
group. ‘What can you tell me about her?’
déjà vu and a vivid 40 year flashback. It was as though she was back and about
to be seduced. Now he could hear Sally talking but something was wrong. Her face
came close to his. She spoke as though in an echo chamber.
‘This is my mother,
who you seduced in 1969 then discarded. She died a premature death. You took
her life Justin. How many other women have you violated in your own miserable
life? No matter. If you know your Old Testament you will know about the “triumph
of justice.” That’s what you’re getting. I’ve slipped you a DACE tablet,
specially developed for chemical warfare. Its definition doesn’t matter. Let’s
just say DACE is an acronym for dissolve assimilate circulate ethayeele. The
beauty is that it’s COT, which stands for colourless odourless and tasteless. It’s
so advanced police toxicologists will never determine the cause of your death.’
As she spoke Sally
cleaned both glasses of her fingerprints and made sure anything else she’d
touched was cleaned. With two tissues she placed the opened newspaper review
book on his lap.
conscious recall was seeing the door closing, hearing it lock then seeing the
key coming through the letterbox and swinging freely from a piece of cotton attached
to the handle.
As the humming in
his head became unbearable and his heart beat for the last time Justin’s eye lids
began to close. His whole life flashed by and he knew this was his final
curtain call but there was no audience.
He was alone –
except for his newspaper press cuttings book for 1969 and staring out at him
was the face of the woman whose daughter had just murdered him.
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