Saul hadn’t left. His breathing was the clearest sound through my nausea, just few feet away, directed on me.
Malek found the number and called from the kitchen. His voice carried through the rooms and I made a mental note to tell him to quiet down next time alas he wanted the entire world to know what he was up to.
I must have drifted off, because I felt Saul suddenly stand very close behind my back. He didn’t touch me, just stood there, his breathing shallow and quiet. His jacket smelled of smoke. He didn’t put it on, when he went to smoke on their porch, but still he smelled as if it had always been present. His knees scraped the edge and he pulled back a little. His breathing turned away, but the knees remained there.
If I weren’t feeling like lumber tossed on the forest floor, I would gladly turned around and absorbed his physical up to his face, which I was sure was still hovering over me. But I couldn’t even open my eyes.
I felt him leaning lower before his lips landed gently near to my ear and pressed slow kiss on my cheek. Then he got up and left.
I hummed, feeling flutter in my heart grow and fill my limbs with buzzing flow of fresh blood.
“We’ll take the body elsewhere and have the police find it there.”
Saul sounded far again. As if I’d imagined his warmth on my back.
Malek called out to him.
“What?” He was still standing on the doorway.
“We can’t move it without hurting the body.”
I frowned and despite wanting to drop there and sleep forever, sat up and sighed, eyelids closed because of the fireworks behind the eyes. “Just call the police! I’ll handle it.”
Saul’s determination not to involve the law enforcement was starting to annoy me.
“They’ll just put it in the list of Huntsman’s victims and that will be all there is to it. But if the crime scene doesn’t add up, they’ll just…”
“Go back to sleep, witch!”
“Oh, that’s nice!” I lashed up. “Name calling? Really? And should we get him off the ceiling without cutting through the threads he’s fixed to the roof, huh? With boards then, huh?”
“And how would you explain that coffin under your roof, huh?”
I sighed and opened my eyes. Dead end.
“You rather burn it up and that would be all with it? They will come searching for him.”
I recalled suddenly that the picture had not come back on its place this morning and got up.
“We have means to make us disappear too if they become too interested in us!” Saul shouted at me when I passed him in the hall.
“You’re not a gangster, Saul!” I reminded him bitterly.
“You know nothing of who I am!”
“You have never even asked, who I am!” he followed me, skipping Malek’s meek try to intervene.
“Ghetto rat, if you keep up this No police! junk!” I responded, picked up the frame, his hollow voice cutting through me. But I refused to look up in his pained eyes, feeling how my heart bled. But I didn’t want to continue this fight any more.
“I have a better idea…” Malek used the long silence we spent feeling each other egos, but was ignored when Saul stepped behind me and hissed in my ear, so close I was sure he’d bite a souvenir from it.
“You’re the real rat here! I don’t think it can get any lower than that!” he left the kitchen, leaving me panting for the missing air and my eyes filled with tears. “What idea?” he shouted to Malek standing on the doorway, and pulled him with him on the porch.
He lit his cigarette and the smoke traveled inside through the open door, but I didn’t go to stop them. I was too busy doing everything in my power not to start crying again. My chest was so tightened up it hurt.
I heaved, forcing my hands to dismantle the frame I was holding. I had to do something. Breaking up this valuable looking metal frame sounded good enough workout for me.
It took some work to get it open. The heavy decorations had been sealed up with dark brown putty pressed hard in the cracks between back and the mat. They wanted it to remain sealed forever. Pulled a knife out of the drawer and pressed it between the frame sides. Whatever the putty was, it broke off, crystallized over the years and suddenly the entire complex fell apart between my fingers and landed on the counter.
It was much bigger photo than the image showing through the glass. There was a couple standing next to the coffin, woman dressed in rather light gray Victorian gown trimmed with darker black lace and stooped figured man, grave looking as the child in the coffin. That’s why it had this huge frame.
“Damn!” I hadn’t planned to destroy it to such extent. I cleared the debris away and read the back of the picture. “To my beloved Martha. Until the last of our line has perished.”
I felt cold flash run through my stomach. The picture had stopped coming back last night and he hadn’t come here with Saul. Oh my god, what if Oliver…
I went around the doorway, but pulled myself to full stop, when I saw Saul and his daring eyes telling me not to get any closer. I wanted to voice out my question, but couldn’t, eyes filling up with tears again. I turned around and ran in the living room instead. Shit. I can’t ask him if his best friend just died through my daddy’s eager hands!
My phone! I could call him myself!
I ran back in the kitchen and landed heavy on my knees, searching the pieces together. Thank heaven for the old type mobiles! The moment I clicked back case on it, it turned back on. I searched through my phone book, but didn’t find his number.
“Shit, shit, shit!”
“Pardon your French!” Malek stood on the door with Saul. I looked up at them with mixed feelings. “You’re nutty again, aren’t you? Look, I understand you’re predicament and with what happened here lately, but…”
“Don’t bother, she’s off the edge!” Saul inserted with sneer and I felt like tossing him with my just assembled phone.
“Fuck you, Saul-Erik!” I snapped, got on my feet and ran past them, up the stairs and in my room. Only to lay my eyes on the ceiling and remember that the dear inspector still oozing through the ceiling.
I can do this, I promised myself, eyes fixed on the copper lined brown stain, there were ways around this pumped up self-righteous ego!
“Time to go hunt the Huntsman.” I whispered and dialed Alan’s number. “Hey, sweet…” I began and asked my dear old friend if he could get me someone, who knows who is who in this sick town. After that I grabbed my bag and pulled on blue shoes before skipping down the stairs and past Saul.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he demanded.
“Not your business!”
“You’re in my town – that makes it my business!”
I came to abrupt stop and turned around, looking him straight in the eyes. “If I need help from lowlife, I turn to you, but not right now.”
His jaw ticked.
I gave him open grin and took the last two steps down before sliding in the kitchen and grabbed the photo from there.
“You have a corpse under your roof!” He reminded me.
“You’re the boss here – your problem!”
“Don’t give me that!” I slowly turned around and his eyes landed on the picture. “Off to sneak around again?” his voice fell low.
“I gotta start from somewhere.” I said and walked to him, stopping only inches away his slowly raising chest. This close he was really dangerous. “I don’t want to sit here anymore.”
The heat radiating from his chest was so intolerable, it took my sight! I wanted to go swimming and had I met any slop or puddle today, I would have gladly sat my backside in it and stayed there until it sucked the mud hole dry.
“You’re not sitting.” Saul-Erik reminded me, prying lower where my blouse ended.
“To be here,” I corrected, “I meant I don’t want to be here anymore. Why didn’t your salesman tell me it’s gonna be so hot? It’s like oven!” I pondered if to give petition to local building regulation office to make south-facing windows punishable by death.
“He isn’t local.” He said gruffly.
The kitchen door made its recognizable click and quietly fell shut.
“Crazy man, why did you shut the door if…” I shot my hand up and fell silent, seeing the image before me. He stood there like an angel, sturdy bronzed handsomeness wearing the jacket that smelled after his last tobacco dose.
I swallowed dryly. Why did he do this to me? I was already suffering from dehydration duo all this havoc before he showed up. I’d be damned if I faint now and miss every moment of it, I went on at myself, and glued my fingers around the cupboard edge.
His eyes blurred and he smiled, seeing his effect on my physique, but that smile disappeared as fast as it had appeared. He sunk against the door and watched me for a while. Had I not seen his chest muscles rise and fall, I would have thought he was close to suffocating. This wasn’t much off on my case. I was oblivious on when and how he appeared before me, but there he stood. My hands shut forward, a protection between me and him.
“Shouldn’t you be with your guests?” I teased, though I didn’t want to know anything about what actually went on behind the door.
He shook his head and took a step closer before my crossed hands stopped him. He looked at the picture with surprise, how its sharp corners gently wrinkled against his shirt. It humored him and he swing back and forth, watching how the picture again and again collapsed against his stomach. The picture stood like armored knight between us, hindering his movement, but it made him smile instead.
Then his vision sobered. He firmly pushed my right hand away from his path and then the left so he could fit between them and he invaded my private space completely.
“Saul,” I began carefully, eyes stuck on his soft lips, “the undertakers…” I felt his fingers run through my hair and I stopped mid-sentence. It was like a sleeping drug for lions – strong and addictive.
“Malek will take care of them.” He whispered and continued separating my hair right and left.
It was clear he wasn’t going to stop by anything I had to say. I didn’t want him to stop and pushed my chin up, waiting for his eyes to come back on my face.
I reached upwards to meet his parted lips, sinking my hands in his jacket to pull him closer, picture wrinkling up between the hold, when the door sprang open and Malek ran through it. We shot apart in mere second and I watched as Saul’s lips formed a thin line while his nose wrinkled up in anger.
“I have a date.” I announced, pressing the picture in the bag. It wasn’t before the nighttime, but right now I needed time for myself. It was my birthday anyway!
“She has a date.” Malek stated, eyes jumping on Saul’s numb face. “She has a date?”
“A date?” Saul-Erik snarled. “And here you are, begging me for a kiss?”
I slapped him hard and walked out on him before he could react.
“At least Alan knows how to treat a woman!” I shouted back and slammed the door shut. I cradled my right hand, it still radiated from the heat of the slap.