Copyright © 2009 K Briggs
"You’re such an old romantic!" Martha exclaimed with a broad mocking grin on her face. Martha was my best friend and a complete cynic. Where I was dreamy and laid back, she was my blast of my reality when I needed it most and I could always depend on her. She was sitting across from me in our favourite eatery of the moment 'Chez Philippe' just off Queen Street. We'd not seen each other since last Tuesday and now it was Wednesday of the following week, and much had happened in that time. Our current topic of conversation (fuelled of course by the Pinot Noir), was my 'bumping into' Mr. Clark on Monday, when I was running for the 6 O’clock train home. The train that I knew I had already missed.
To explain the formality of the use of his title, when we collided at the corner of Graves Street and 2nd Avenue that was the only name I saw on his ID when his wallet fell open to the pavement. I quickly bent to the floor to retrieve it and handed it to him. I offered my apologies with a nervous giggle.
“Don’t worry, I bump into people all the time.” He replied calmly, and gave me a warm and gentle smile, which immediately put me at ease. There was something attractive about him and that something kept me there, at that corner, grinning like an idiot. Earlier in the conversation Martha had kindly reminded me that I was an idiot and asked, what was I doing meeting strange men on corners? Was I that desperate? I’d been asking myself the same questions and decided that the answer to both was a very confused “I don’t know.
” But what I did know, was that me and Clark (which I’m going to call him for short) had the most amazing evening last night.
We had stood on that corner for around 10 minutes making polite conversation and although the wind was blowing a gale, I didn’t seem to feel the cold. I would never have asked Clark out on a date (if that’s what it was?). He was smart, refined and well spoken and I also must mention, quite a bit older than me it seems. However, he didn’t waste much time and suggested a gorgeous little wine bar on Broad Street where we could carry on our conversation. I at first refused his advances, as despite what Martha may think, I’m not into meeting ‘strange men on corners’ on a regular basis. My polite rejection didn’t put him off and I admired his determination.
He casually handed me his card, which could only be described as minimalist. It listed his name, which was simply shown as ‘R. Clark’ and his home and mobile number. “It would be nice to speak to you again,” he’d said. “Give me a call and dinner will be my treat – no pressure or anything Emma, I hope you don’t feel I’m been too forward?” he added.
When I arrived home I fed the fish, who seemed hungrier than usual. I then rang Martha who feigned any interest in my story as she was having what is known as ‘a bit of a drought’. Although she did remind me not to appear too desperate and to keep him waiting a while. Martha was good at these things, and I sometimes feel that she plays too hard to get. Anyway, who am I to judge? When was the last time I went on a date? I knew she was right though, I promised myself I wouldn’t ring him for at least 48 hours. But what if he forgot who I was? Ok, 24 hours.
At precisely 18.23 of the following evening, I had my mobile in my right hand and his card in the left. I was ready to make the call. My heart was beating quickly but I felt in control, I was the calling him. The phone rang at the other end of the line and he answered with a sharp ‘yes?’ on the third ring, which made me jump. ‘Hello…It’s me, Emma, from yesterday?’. There was a pause and a noticeable change in his voice. He quickly regained his recognisable warmer tone and we spoke for around 10 minutes. I can’t really remember what we discussed but the short of it was that he’d asked what I was doing tonight. I told him I wasn’t doing anything. The truth was I’d got a night of pyjamas, pizza and ice cream on the agenda but I didn’t think this would go down to well as a reason for staying in.
He took me to the gorgeous wine bar he had previously mentioned and I learned that he shared my love of wine and classic films. He learned a lot about me due to my love of wine. I don’t think I came up for air after the second glass. I liked him, he seemed familiar and safe and he listened. He flagged down a taxi for me when we left and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was worse for wear and he could have taken advantage of me. He’s such a gentleman.
‘So what now?’ Martha asked. ‘Are you seeing him again?’ as we left Chez Philippe, wrapping our scarves tightly around our necks.
‘Tomorrow night – he’s invited me to his!’
‘Where does he live?
‘He’s staying at the Marriott, I’m meeting him there at 8.’
‘OK, well enjoy and this time shut your mouth for 2 minutes and make it your aim to get his full name at least. Do you even know what he does for a living?’
I admitted that I didn’t, although I presumed it would be something professional. I embraced Martha and told her I would update her on Friday. I got on the train home and planned out my outfit for tomorrow. I also concluded that I was fairly happy with my life. I had good friends, an ok job and a cosy little flat complete with goldfish. It was simple but it was mine and I liked the security of home.
I got to the Marriott just before 8.00 and he hadn’t yet got to the bar so I ordered us 2 large red wines. I’d finished my wine by 8.20 and he still hadn’t appeared. I kept looking around but didn’t want to seem suspicious. At 8.30, I started on his glass. I hadn’t eaten yet and was starting to feel dreamy. I rang his mobile but it just kept ringing, no answer phone. I walked up to the stern looking middle aged lady on the front desk and asked ‘Is a Mr Clark staying here?’ she glared back at me.
‘And who are you?’
Who was I? ‘A friend, I was due to meet him here at 8’.
‘We can’t give out guest information madam’.
I could tell from her demeanour that it was worth arguing. I tried his mobile again with the same response. I got out of there before anyone realised I had been stood up. I was embarrassed, and annoyed at my own naivety. Martha was right, I should play hard to get. There is no such thing as a gentleman!
I’d calmed down a little by the time I got home I took my heels, uncomfortable clothes and make-up of and took a look at myself in the mirror. I told myself that it was his loss – right, who was I kidding? I put the TV on and called Martha. I knew she’d say she told me so but I needed to hear a friendly voice. Martha didn’t answer so I left her a message asking me to call her back. I was so tired I went straight to bed and fell fast asleep.
I was awoken the next morning by my mobile ringing. I took me a couple of seconds to open my eyes. Was it him? Should I answer? It was 10.05 on my alarm clock. I looked at my phone and it was Martha. ‘Hiya, you’ll never guess what happened last night – you were right about him.’
‘Sorry, is this Emma?’ it was a man’s voice. A voice I didn’t recognise. Had Martha ended her drought?
‘Yes. Who’s this?
‘Emma I’m Detective Inspector Branshaw. Are you a friend of Martha Seymour?’
‘Yes, why what’s happened?’ My heart was beating faster and faster.
When they knocked on my door, I was welcoming and offered them a drink and to sit down. I was always raised to be well mannered to strangers. ‘You’d better take a seat Emma, I’m afraid we’ve got some bad news’. It was then that DI Branshaw told me the whole story. They believe that the murderer arrived at around 8pm. There was no sign of forced entry or struggle, indicating that it was someone she may have been familiar with. The two bodies were found side by side on the sofa. He’d shot Martha twice and then presided to shoot himself through the mouth and up into the brain. ‘Emma do you know how Martha knew this Mr Clark?’. It was then that my mouth went dry and everything spun round in my living room.
I awoke on my bed and could hear the voices of the police in my living room. I told them everything or at least everything I knew about him, which was very little. I then broke down in tears. Had I done this to Martha? Why did he kill her?
It took a whole week before they could put together the pieces from the murder scene. It turns out that yes, I had told him about Martha but he had been watching her for nearly a year and he saw me as a way to get to her. He’d also done his research online to find her whereabouts. ‘Mr Clark’ was previously known as Mr Robert Clayton who was Martha’s high school Maths tutor who she’d had an affair with at the age of 16. Martha had told me about this before. She’d had a typical schoolgirl crush on him at the time. She thought she loved him and asked him to leave his wife, which as time went by she realised would never happen. When she left school that year she could take it no longer and posted a letter through the letterboxes of both Mr Clayton’s wife and the school Head Teacher. Martha had ruined Mr Clayton’s life and career in one swoop. He could never live down the shame and had to relocate. He’d waited all this time to get his revenge but no one knew if his crime was committed through love or hate for Martha.
My life will never be the same again. I moved out of the flat 6 months ago, 4 weeks after Martha’s death. I’ve enrolled with the police force and I’m not the naive dreamer that I used to be. I learned a lot from Martha in life and even more in her death. She was right, there is no such thing as a gentleman.
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