The picture was flat on the kitchen counter.
Suddenly, the strange liquid that had started oozing down my bedroom ceiling, turning the white boards brown, gained a whole new meaning. While staring at the picture, I picked up my mobile and dialed Saul’s number.
I hadn’t called him for days. Our little problem wasn’t something to pass by itself, I knew it. We had to talk it through. He’d prefer to fight it through. Just this wasn’t the time to start childish silence mode.
“I know you’re mad at me, but…” I started, when I heard him pick it up.
He didn’t respond or cut me off as I expected. It was disappointing.
“Can you come over, please?” I whispered, letting my eyes fall on the table as if it had gathered some importance.
“For what?” he snapped.
“There’s…” I scolded myself for having to sound like a broken records and changed the tune. “Something’s wrong, Saul, the picture didn’t come back by itself.” I eyed the flat down frame on the counter.
“I know, I brought it there.” He said emotionlessly.
He’d been in the house? It hit the air out of me and it took me a while to get my voice back.
“It stayed down where you put it.”
There was a long pause.
“Something’s wrong, it always came back here by itself and now it doesn’t? There’s something -“
“You assume something is wrong based on a haunted picture? Haven’t you looked around lately? Take a look outside, I dare you!”
I inhaled, mentally choking myself.
“Change of patterns, is what I base my assumptions on.”
“Evelyn, you do understand how pathetic that sounds?”
“Don’t discard me like that, Saul! Despite our disagreement! Let’s put that disagreement aside for now, for everyone’s sake, can we? Can you come over, please? That picture – it always comes back and suddenly you have to bring it back? Don’t you find it even little bit –?”
“Don’t call me again.”
He hung up before I could finish my sentence. Gritting my teeth I called him again four times, but he never picked up again.
I tried not to feel the helplessness digging through my chest.
I went back in my bedroom and stared at the spot in my ceiling. It was warm for this time of year and even with all the wind blowing through the old attic, it would start smelling soon I gathered, regardless how I felt about it. I swallowed, realizing it didn’t need rocket science to figure out what it was.
Just blowing my birthday candles wasn’t gonna make it go away. The eeriness of what I had to face made me sick in the stomach.
I chuckled, realizing how perfect timing it had been – for my birthday!
“Happy birthday to me…” I sang, choking on the words while I pulled on the handle. “Happy birthday, dear Evy!” The ladder landed inches from my feet. “Happy birthday to me!”
I pressed eyes shut and felt the floor by hand. When I managed to stumble few steps, I realized that I wasn’t sure where exactly it was and forced my eyes open.
My first impression, seeing his skinny body hanging in front of me, was that I wanted to gag. His body had been used like canvas, decorated with stitched through blooded white flowers.
Charles Bertwick. After such disfigurement there was little to resemble the man we saw just days ago. If there weren’t the bulky plastic watch hanging around his left arm, I wouldn’t have even recognized the body hanging in my attic.
I swirled around, cupping my mouth in hope I could keep it in, heaving hard. My eyes fell on the casket still hanging on the other end of the attic. Martha… It suddenly dawned on me, where I knew his name. He was Martha’s brother!
And I thought the place was haunted! Blood dripping through the ceiling boards! It turned out, I had far earthlier thing under my roof – a body. If only I would have gathered the courage to come check this out sooner!
Sighing wouldn’t help solve my situation though. Of course they will ask, seeing how soaked the wood is, why didn’t I ask help before, and from there it wasn’t far jump to murder case either.
Why? I hadn’t even dreamt of finding younger Vellzicher hanged under my roof!
This would make a good story for newspaper. Only the headline itself is already worth a Pulitzer Prize! “Young woman let man in agony bleed to death, because she thought the body fluid dripping from the ceiling was poltergeist activity!”
No, they wouldn’t use the expression body fluids, too clumsy and improper for public service media. No, such prized finds are for tabloids – I could call Zuzana right now!
His zipped up lips gave clear sign that he had been alive, when the thread cut in tender flesh as if someone had hacked through jelly. He was starting to smell. The sickening smell of rotting blood swelling in his veins.
Oh God! What a gift for my fucking birthday! Mom would jump from joy, when I told her about this – grotesque white flowers decorating investigator’s chest… Nor anyone else! I must take her out for lunch.
And hide it how? Or why? I didn’t have to hide my dad’s evil deeds!
Despite him being dead, I didn’t want to leave him alone. I knew I had to if I wanted to call Malek in, but I couldn’t make myself leave. I stepped back, tripped over the corner of the ladder and fell on my knees.
I heard Malek calling me from the kitchen. It was faint sound and most of it disappeared in my sobbing.
“Hey, Evelyn, the hell is dripp…” he climbed up the ladder, but shouted harsh, seeing the man over my crouching shell.
I pushed up, tossing hair out of my face, eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t form a single word to explain what we were both staring at.
He pulled up on the floor and reached out for me immediately.
“Oh darling…” he soothed me while my fingers dug in his coat and I howled against his collar. “Come on,” he coached, “come on now.” He cleaned my eyes with his thumbs. “I know it’s hard, but we must get you down from here. Come on, let’s go to the kitchen while I call Saul.”
I felt blood rush back in my head. “No! He already blames me bringing this on you! If he hears about this…”
“He doesn’t blame you in this!”
“He didn’t even shout at me!” I cried.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret – he doesn’t shout on anyone. But you, you grandly piss him off! Look, he is angry, but with you – he goes crazy! You make him grind his teeth! I was with him, when you called. He turned the sound down and then ignored your calls, phone neatly tucked under his chin! And when the calls stopped, his patience lasted no more than five minutes before I got the order to come and check on you! Look…” he hissed, eyeing the man behind us. “Let’s go to the kitchen first, ok?”
I nodded and he helped me down of the ladder.
I sat in the corner while Malek swirled around in the kitchen, trying to find the right words or how to respond or tell others. I didn’t care. I felt the tears running on, but cleared them quietly. He put glass of water in front of me while he sat on the other chair.
He flipped through his phonebook, counting no-s. After a while he stopped on Saul’s name and called him anyway.
“I need you to come to Evelyn’s house.” He said, worry written in his face. “It doesn’t look good,” he listened tensely Saul’s response. “She doesn’t look good either. Come here, will you? I’m calling at work.”
He was ready to put the phone away, but something Saul said, made him listen to it close. “We have a body.”
I didn’t hear, but I knew there was some heavy swearing on the other end of the phone, seeing how Malek gently pushed the phone away from his ear and waited for a long moment, eyes neatly set on the wall. After the shouting stopped, he pulled the phone back on his ear.
“Get here and we’ll talk.” He finished.
My temples throbbed and my eyes felt heavy. I rested my head on the table, soaking up the coolness of the heavy oak.
My mobile rang. It felt like earthquake, when it vibrated against my already throbbing forehead. I raised my head and read Hidden Number. I frowned harsh before pushing it slowly over the edge of the table and listened it crash on the floor while Malek imagined punishing me good for that trick.
“It was Saul, you know.” He said, pressing numbers in his mobile.
I put my head back. I let him believe that. “It hurt my headache.” I said against the table. “Besides, he told me not to call him.”
“So you make him suffer? God send me patience!” He muttered the latter to himself and tried the first number. No answer.
“Whose side are you on? Y’ know what, don’t answer that. You’re on his side.”
“Right now?” he sighed and stood. “On the side of anyone, who isn’t eager to call police when I tell them about the body.”
“Perhaps we should this time?” I watched him walk around in the kitchen.
“We can’t, you know that.”
“No,” I straightened up, despite the throbbing promising to kill me, “you don’t understand – he’s Society’s investigator – his disappearance here will get the whole shitload land on us.”
I heard car stop on the street near us. Probably Saul. Oh this was getting so good in matter of seconds, I grinned painfully.
He coughed. “Pardon your French,” he reminded me that despite them using it, they really didn’t like women doing that. “Come again?”
“He is an investigator! He showed up here few days ago. Saul was here, he saw him too! If he goes missing here, which probably is known fact to everybody that he was here last, then they’ll send someone searching and the last you need right now is them snooping around!” It took all my stamina to say this. My head was feeling heavier by the minute and I felt like crying. All I wanted was to set it on something strong and let my body follow.
“And you know exactly what we need!” we heard Saul shout from the open door. I watched Malek jump on his shout, but my energy was finished and I laid my head slowly back on the table.
“I don’t care.” I whispered. I wasn’t going into that again. As long as he stopped shouting. He said something, but it sounded so quiet and far away. Yes, that would be nice – let them shout, but far away.
Suddenly he was next to me and pressed his bony fingers around my shoulder and forced me to look at him. “Are you listening to me?! The moment you showed up…” Saul trailed away, his eyebrows falling low.
“Oh yes, blame it on me again!” I mocked him, but couldn’t keep my eyes on him.
He let go of my arm and grabbed my cheeks. He moved my face left and right, up and down and touched my heated head.
“She was fine just a minute ago!”
Malek sounded worried. It made me worry.
“She isn’t now.” He pulled me up and supported me from my waist while he took me to the living room and set me down on the sofa. He moved the few pillows aside, mounting them on one side and slowly slid me down on them.
“Stop fussing!” I growled and tried to twist his fingers away the moment my back felt comfortable, but felt suddenly his iron hold on my wrists and looked straight in his eyes. I was sure he’d say something, but instead, he like tossed my hands back to me and walked away, passing Malek on the doorway.
“Now go, kiss and make up.” Malek mused, most improperly for the day, I wanted to say, but instead turned my head towards the green velvet back and closed my eyes.
I heard a small whop and his silent cry for justice and smiled. He earned it. Then Malek left, still trying to find someone on the phone as I could hear the peeping sound coming from his phone.