In a sea of faces, in a sea of doubt
In this cruel place your voice above the maelstrom
In the wake of this ship of fools I'm falling further down
Who among us haven't thought about how we would react if we found out that one of our near and dear was guilty of some horrible crime? Would we still love a murderer? Would we stand behind a rapist? Or would we fall out of love, reject them, abandon them... run to safety?
In my work as a police detective I met those fates, now and then. The innocent ones. The ones who had been in denial for years. The ones who had known and actively refused to face it. Of course the latter were often brought to justice as accomplices, so that was a slightly different story, but still...
How would I react? Funny how you never know.
In the deepening dusk the house lights were warm and welcoming. I turned off the car engine and sat there for a while, looking at the moths congregating around the porch lamp, listening to soft music seeping from the half open study window. He'd be inside, sitting in his comfy chair reading with his glasses balancing on the tip of his nose. He'd look up when I entered the room, and his brown eyes would glitter in the dancing light from the fireplace. He'd smile. Such a lovely smile. His patients loved that smile. Nobody could be wary of a doctor with a smile like that.
I sighed and got out of the car, stepping on the newspaper as I did so. Some day he might remember to pick it up when he came home. Not today, though. I crammed it into the garbage bin before going inside. I didn't need to read the headlines. I knew what they were.
That same night, when we were lying in bed, his head resting on my arm I said: "I've taken tomorrow off. We should take the boat out and not come back until Sunday."
"You said you were tied up at work."
"Yeah... well, I decided that the department would probably not go completely to rack and ruin if I just had a weekend off for once."
He rolled over and kissed me. "I'd love that!"
I smiled in the warm darkness. "I know. Let's get some sleep and make an early start..."
Early next morning I packed food and clothes for the weekend. I took care to pack his favourite clothes and favourite food. I wanted... I needed this to be the best weekend. Ever. He came from the shower, hair still damp, with a bit of shaving foam hiding the dimple in his cheek. I looked at him and felt like I was dying. But I just handed him the bag with clothes and smiled.
"This goes in the car," I said. "I'm almost ready."
I watched him through the window while he put the bag in the trunk of the car. I refused to let the tears that I felt burning behind my eyes surface. It was never a weeping matter. Or... maybe it was once, but that was long ago. I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. I'd get through this. I'd make it. I had planned this. I had the means, I just needed the courage.
The boat lay by the pier, slowly moving on the swell. So sleek, so beautiful. He loved that boat, and I had learned to love it over the years. Mostly because of the way it made his face glow, and the way he'd let his hands caress the railing and the steering wheel. Because of the way it made him happy. Like it did now, as we slowly glided out of the harbour with him at the wheel and me letting the sun and wind evaporate the tears in my eyelashes.
It was a perfect day. He made me feel very much alive, and he seemed to feel the same. So ironical. One day of perfection. I could not have asked for more.
When night fell and the moon rose we anchored up in a sheltered bay. We had brought along white wine in a cool box, and we had brought the nice glasses. No plastic cups. I needed to feel the fragile glass between my fingers; the slender stem so easily broken by a careless hand, and the thin rim pressing to my lips like a knife. Looking at him, warm and golden in the sheen from the cabin light on one side, cold and marble white in the moonlight on the other... I hated him. For one split second I hated him, white hot and throughout, for what I was going to have to do. But it was over as soon as I acknowledged the emotion, and it left me with a dizzying feeling of relief.
I lifted my glass and smiled to him.
"To you!" I said.
He nodded and looked at me while sipping the wine. "You seem... almost giddy, honey," he said. "You haven't had that much wine yet, have you?"
The light, teasing tone made my heart seize up.
"No. I haven't."
I took a deep breath. "I need to tell you something. I need to talk. You know the case that has been taking all my time these last months? Nine murders, and not one clue."
He nodded, naturally. He never complained about my work, but there had been a sadness in his eyes... I knew now why, even if I had tried to tell myself it was because he felt lonely.
"Well... We've had a breakthrough. Within one or two days, tops, we'll know who did it. We have found DNA at the last house. On the victim, even. They are running the results through the databases in the morning, and it's just a question of time."
"Eight killings without a mistake," he said. "And the ninth... Well, one mistake is all it takes."
I noticed he said "killings" rather than "murders". I took another sip of my wine. "So it ends here." I said.
...there's a weight above me
And the pressure is all too strong
He sat perfectly still. Like a statue of gold and marble. He was so achingly beautiful I felt my resolve weaken. But, knowing my bleeding heart, I had taken precautions. I had mixed the poison in the glass of wine on beforehand. A hefty dose. I couldn't stop it now, no matter what he said or did.
"What do you mean?" he said. His voice sounded thin and tense. I smiled sadly. "You know what I mean. Please stop pretending."
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know what you are talking about. I never..."
"Please, love. Don't. Just... don't."
His mouth opened and shut a few times, and his hand with the glass started shaking. He put down the glass on the deck. I could see his mind working, working. He was so clever, but this was one situation he wouldn't be able to think his way out of.
"I suppose the first kill was out of desperation," I said softly. "It's like a textbook case. Then the feeling of... dominance. Power. Of being invincible. And they were carefully chosen not to be missed too much... But..."
I drained my glass and looked at it. "'You can fool some people all of the time, and all people some of the time...'"
He made a strangled sound.
"And now it's all over," I said. "I have often wondered what it would be like to have a partner... a loved one who was guilty of something terrible. And nine murders must qualify as terrible. Seeing someone you love more than life itself go to jail... no, that won't happen."
He reached out and tried to take my hand, but I wouldn't let him. I could see a glitter in his eyes, tears were spilling down his cheeks.
"What are you trying to tell me?" he moaned. I smiled slowly.
"It's written: "An eye for an eye". Poison. In the wine."
He looked at me, and at his glass and my glass, and then again at me.
"No!" He jumped to his feet. "What kind of poison? Where is my bag? Have you gone insane?!"
He was a furious demon, standing over me, gripping my shoulders, shaking me, shouting desperately.
"I left your bag at home, sweet heart. There are no medical supplies on board at all. And the radio has had a small accident. Nothing that can't be fixed, but it'll take too long. And no, I am not telling you which poison either. I'm not insane. But it's over, damnit! Over! Don't you get it?"
He dropped to his knees in front of me, and I took his angry face between my hands. "It's over, love. Give it up."
He looked at me imploringly for the longest time, and I could see he hadn't given up. His mind was still working, trying to see a way out. Until I doubled up and fell over. I knew it would hurt, but I still wasn't prepared. My field of vision narrowed to a tunnel with walls of shimmering darkness and I may have cried out. It had seemed like such an obvious decision, but now I didn't want to. "What have I done?" I thought. "He'll never remember to take in the paper on his own."
"I never would have abandoned you or turned you in," I heard him say. I smiled and closed my eyes.
"I know..." I said. "I know."
To breathe deep
Breathe long and hard
To take the water down and go to sleep
Lyrics from "Marian" by Sisters of Mercy