Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (39)

The sea was angry as Blake journeyed back to the Cape. At the horizon, sea and sky seemed to meld in an ill-tempered blur of grey-green haze. Since boarding the seven o’clock ferry, he had thought about nothing but Elle. What am I going to do without her, while she’s away? he mulled, his mood as black as the weather.

He did not notice the stares he drew from a group of acquaintances who were waiting to board as he disembarked the vessel at the end of its short voyage. For some years now, he had been one of their gang: commuting to work at roughly the same time, the group would reassemble almost every evening to share a few drinks on the way home. As Blake stumbled down the ramp on this overcast morning, one of his friends made to call out to him, only for the words to get caught in his throat. Another, noticing, put a finger to his lips, signalling that whatever he had intended to say was best left for another, more appropriate time. Had Blake been more alert, he might even have wondered what this silent exchange meant. But, alone with his thoughts and with his eyes gazing far off into space, he did not in any event notice.

Blake wiped his feet nervously after pushing open the door to his Caperidge apartment. Arriving there by a route he could not remember, there had been no need for him to put his key in the lock. For unusually, the door was slightly ajar. The first thing he saw upon entering was a Doctor’s bag, lying open atop the dining table. Further alarm bells rang when he then noticed the woman dozing on the sofa, her legs drawn up beneath her. Although unable to recognise her, he could see that she was obviously western, and someone who might therefore be an acquaintance of his wife. As his stomach slowly began churning, there was only one thought in Blake’s mind: Kate’s done something to herself.

“I’m terribly sorry to hear your news, Mr. Blake.” Announcing itself out of the blue, the man’s clipped baritone made him jump. Blake swivelled to face its owner as, independent from his bodily movement, his mind began to whir. News? What news? “Your wife is heavily sedated. She’ll be out for some time. Give me a call when she starts coming round and I’ll try and get here to assess her condition.” The man he now recognised as Doctor Elliott spoke in the tone of an assured professional. Factual, but strangely lacking in soul.

A wave of panic so strong he thought he could hear it now rushed over him. Blake was desperate to know what had happened, but something was stopping his mouth from moving. He simply nodded before unintentionally brushing shoulders with the Doctor, in his eagerness to rush down the corridor that led to his and Kate’s bedroom. Whatever it was, this news, he sensed it was something he could have prevented, had he been there when it happened. Unused to philandering, Blake was already feeling guilty about his overnight absence.

The scene that greeted him as he swung open the bedroom door took a full minute for him to decipher. As he had expected from the Doctor’s description, Kate was out for the count. Lying on top of the bedclothes, still fully dressed, her cheeks were stained with mascara, indicating that she had been crying. Heavily. He could see that her hair was a mess. Someone – perhaps Kate herself – had been pulling at it. But aside from this, there were no other signs of injury, or attack. What the fuck’s happened? Despite the hum of an overhead air conditioning unit, he could hear himself breathing, shallow and fast. And then he noticed it. Clutched tightly to her chest, her arms folded around it in a protective embrace, was a picture frame. Must be the photo of her mother. The old girl had, after all, been showing signs of imminent demise lately.

Blake felt a slight sense of relief at this notion, for whilst he would naturally be needing to summon up whatever sympathy he could, the death of his mother-in-law was something that would leave him feeling much less hollow than it would his wife. He was, then, almost smiling as he began moving closer to her, when suddenly he sensed the presence of someone just behind him. Wordlessly, he turned to face the woman he had earlier seen dozing on the sofa. “I’m so sorry…” she began. “I know,” Blake cut her off. “She was getting on a bit, but it still must’ve come as a shock.” The woman stopped, her mouth agape. “What?” Blake asked, his guts now preparing to smash through the floor beneath him. For suddenly, it occurred to him that the situation might be much worse than he had led himself to believe. “Your d-daughter… D-don’t you kn-no–” the woman stammered. “What? What are you saying?” “Oh my God! Oh no, oh my God! I’m… I’m so sorry… Your d-daughter–”

Blake almost knocked the woman over as he pushed past her to rush across the corridor to Sophie’s bedroom. Please, please, dear God… Please let her be asleep in her bed… But as he burst in, he saw that the room was empty. Neither were there any signs that it had been occupied recently, save for an indentation where someone had perhaps sat on the bed awhile. Oh fuck, no! his head shrieked. Not my Sophie! Please, not my Sophie!

Blake wanted to scream. He tried and failed to let out a wail that would have been heard right across the Cape. He wanted to punch the wall, himself, the mirror. His insides felt like they might snap, worse than the most excruciating cramp he had ever experienced. And his next instinct was to run – up the wall, out the window… But to where? Where is she? Where’s my Sophie? “Where is she? Where is she?” he screamed at the woman, turning on her as she once again crept up behind him. “Ssschool t-trip…” she floundered, flinching at his animal aggression. “What? What are you talking about?” “Ssschool trip. Ch-china.” By now, the woman had begun to sob. Fuck, no! Blake begged, inwardly. Nooooooooooooo! He slumped to his knees. His head seemed to be pumped full of air, like it was going to burst at any moment. He wanted to cry but no tears would come. He banged his fists against the marble of the floor until the pain eventually got through, alerting him to the damage he was doing.

And then, slowly, he rose, before silently making his way back down the corridor, towards the lounge. Blake had known for some time that his life was changing, perhaps forever. That he was less in control of his destiny than before. But this was, without doubt, a real turning point, he now saw. And in this instant he vowed to avenge whatever harm had come to his daughter, to slay the perpetrator of whatever crime had been committed. Breathing heavily, it took every ounce of his courage to utter a final word to the woman, who had also now emerged from the dimly-lit corridor. “Alive?” he asked.

posted by Kirk at 5:04 am  

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