Chapter 5: When despair appears
I walk thoughtfully into the bar, without noticing Jin, and I pass by him rushing. He runs after me and grabs my arm.
“Cara. We need to talk. Where is Ania?”
“I will work for her too today. I can handle it, trust me.”
“I don’t want what happened last night to happen again. What were you thinking?”
“I don’t know. It won’t happen. Daniel is dead”, I say as if it was something normal.
Jin looks at me shocked, probably wondering when and where I’ve lost my soul. I put on my apron and get into the kitchen, where Andreea welcomes me with a warmer look as usual.
“Oh, you found out the news”, I say in a stone cold voice.
“I’m sorry for what happened to you guys. Is Ania ok?”
“Yes. She’s just resting after a long night.”
I continue my work, taking the orders to the customers, who had come in a larger number than usual. They had written in the newspaper about a robbery, even if Jin tried to cover everything up. The fact that he didn’t manage it brought a satisfaction on his face, for the bar was full now due to that incident. More work for me, double actually. I didn’t feel sorry for me, and I poured myself a coffee at eight in the evening. Tiredness was a part of me now, and I couldn’t feel the sleep. Some kind of weird energy had taken me over, and I was walking like a robot between the tables.
In one of the breaks, I went into the kitchen and I ate a piece of cheese. Normally, Andreea would have had something to say about it, but after taking a closer look at my face private of sleep and the bag under my eyes, she decided to leave me alone. I take a look in the bar and I see only two customers left. They wave at me to give them the check, and Andreea grabs her purse happily.
“Here’s the key. Don’t forget to lock the door!”
I approved her and I gave the check to the two men. I put the “closed” sign after they left, and was ready to clean up the table when I hear a knock on the window. I closed my eyes instinctively, then I turned around and I threw the two glasses from my hands in the front door. The shock was even bigger when I saw Dylan standing in front of the door. I put my palm on my head, as a sign of relief, then I walked to the door. I didn’t open it.
“I’ve closed”, I say seriously.
“I can tell”, he laughs. “I was hoping that I will catch you here”.
“How did you know I was working today?” I ask suspiciously.
“Ania mentioned that you work in shifts, and I figured if you weren’t working last night… Why don’t you open the door so we can talk like two normal people?”
I wait a few moments until I open the door. He follows me and locks it. I continue cleaning up as if I was alone in there. When I finish, I look at him and I see him smiling.
“What’s so funny?” I ask.
“You forgot a glass”, he says and brings it to me.
I throw it in the sink, mumble a “Thanks”, then I turn around.
“Why did you come?”
“Why are you in a hurry?”
“Because I haven’t slept in hours, because Michelle, Ania’s friend, was murdered, and so was my psycho ex-boyfriend, who vandalized this place last night, and all of these, forgive me, because we decided to stay here with you.”
“I forgive you”.
“It was an expression. I don’t give a damn about what you feel now, but I know that I feel so exhausted and I want to sleep.”
Dylan starts laughing.
“You’re too cruel for a…”
But he stops when he realizes he might upset me.
“Waitress?” I asked lifting my eyebrows.
“I wanted to say…”
“Yeah, don’t bother. You can call me waitress. It’s not a shame. So, why did you come here?”
He looks at me shocked, trying to hide something in his police officer and tough guy look.
“I wanted to see if you have something to tell me. Anything. Something that you couldn’t tell me at the police station. I saw that you are skeptical about everything around you.”
“I don’t have anything to add. Thanks, but you didn’t have to come all the way here. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to close because I am tired. So I suggest you should walk outside.”
“The bar’s policy says that you have to stay here until the last customer leaves, not to kick them out. Have you already forgotten what you told me last night?”
“I said a lot last night, but you’re right about this one. I guess I’m lucky that you’re not my customer.”
“And what if I want to order a bottle of water?”
I nod my head and I make a sound, that was meant to be a laugh, and I rummage into the purse. I take out a bottle of water, half empty, and I hand it to him.
“From the house”, I smile. “Now come on. After you. I really want to call a cab and close this place.”
I head to the phone from the bar, when I hear Dylan laughing.
“I can take you home. I came with my car.”
“Oh, that’s why you ordered water. I get it. Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. I don’t get into stranger’s cars”, I say and then I tell the address to the lady on the phone.
He’s a little surprised by my refusal, but he walks out and waits for me to lock the door. I sit on a chair and wait for my taxi.
“Have a nice night”, I say.
“You surprised me”, he says.
“Oh, you didn’t expect to bump into a wild paranoiac?” I ask relaxed.
“I didn’t expect to be refused.”
“You don’t know me, so please don’t pretend to.”
He sits next to me, and at that moment I can feel his perfume with woody notes, strong and manly.
“But can I wait for the cab with you?”
“They say it’s a free country, and even if I don’t believe this for a long time, I can’t stop you.”
He laughs again. I put my hand on my forehead, then I put it into my hair.
“Are you a natural redhead?” he asks me.
“Do you want to piss me off?” I continue.
“I can’t get along with you this evening?” he asks surprised. “What happened to the girl from last night or to the one to the section?”
“Look what. I’m tired. I told you that you don’t know me. If you did, you would have known that this is how I act when I’m tired.”
“It seems that I know you now.”
“You have a long road until you get there, you probably would never reach the destination, but is one of the things that people don’t know about me. No one ever saw me tired like this. Anyway, the red is a cheap hair dye. See? The roots have begun to show. I will probably get back to my natural brown because this month I’m not getting the salary”, I laugh.
Dylan shows a sign that he wants to say something, probably much more than I could bear at that late hour, when the headlights of the cab appear on the street.
“This is my carriage. Thanks for keeping me company.”
“My pleasure”, says Dylan with a big smile on his face.
I blocked for a second when I saw his teeth. I had no idea how I could miss them the night before. His big and white teeth couldn’t pass unnoticed, but they did somehow last night. I embarrassed looked in the ground because of the nonsense I’ve talked all night. I got into the taxi and I didn’t look back.
I got down in front of the block of flats, and I noticed that Ania’s lights were on. A shadow of dissatisfaction crossed my mind because I had left her to rest, and she was awake and doing God knows what at that hour in the night.
I go up the stairs mumbling and I knock at the door. She had given me the spare key, but I couldn’t make the effort to scatter in the bag for it, and how she had the lights on, I assumed she was awake. There’s no sound from the apartment. I don’t insist anymore for I don’t want to wake up the neighbors, and I start looking for the keys in the purse. After a couple of minutes of fighting with stuff inside my bag, I mean Ania’s bag, I find them. I unlock the door and I walk into the living room, where the TV is on, and I can see on the floor a pair of socks and one pair of shorts. I walk two more steps, calling her name, when I see the bathrobe in a corner of the room. I get closer to her room, where I see her feet on the bed. On the floor, I can see a spoon, probably defiled with ice cream. Yes, that ice cream I didn’t get to taste yet, the one she tried to convince me not to buy. After another two steps, I see the ice cream bowl on the floor, and it was still solid and I figured she must have dropped it a couple of minutes ago. I enter the room and I see her lying on the bed, as if she was waiting for the prince in the fairytale to come and kiss her to wake her up from the curse.
Nothing. Just silence. I sit next to her on the bed and I touch her arm. I call her name again, but Ania’s not answering. She’s either sleeping profoundly or there’s something terribly wrong. I start shaking her hard, but she doesn’t move. I wince and pull back, falling with my hand in the ice cream bowl. I call her name again and again, but Ania doesn’t seem to be alive. I come back to my senses, I trip again, and I start looking for her phone. I find it charging, on the floor, on the other side of the bed. I call 911, trying not to choke on tears and screaming, then I crawl into the corner trembling. I don’t notice that the hand I put into the ice cream was red because I was in a shock, and only after about ten minutes, I feel it stinging me. I clean it up on the bed sheets, but it still burns me. I run into the kitchen where I put it under cold water.
Then I hear knocks on the door. I rush to open, and I hear on the other side of the door voices which confirm me the police was there. I open the door with my makeup all over my face, desperate, tired physically and mentally. The officers pass by me, talk to me, but I can’t hear anything. I wake up from the shock when I see Dominic coming inside. I hear him screaming, then I see him with the hands on his head. Everything’s happening in slow motion.
“I heard about it on the station and I recognized the address. It can’t be happening!” he tells to another cop while he wipes some tears off his face.
I couldn’t see the logic in this situation, why Dominic was so affected by it, but everything starts making sense when he talks again.
“I had just left this place about twenty minutes ago! When? How?”
He approaches me, while the criminologists do their job around Ania’s dead body.
“What happened? Talk to me!”
“I came here…” I finally whisper. “I can’t do this!” I yell, get up, but I trip and fall over the table.
Dominic comes into my help, but I push away his hands and I start trembling.
“Let her calm down”, I hear a familiar voice.
I look up.
“What are you doing here?” I ask when I see Dylan behind Dominic.
“I called him”, answers Dominic.
“I will take her down to the station and we will talk to her there. She’s in shock. I’ll take her to the ambulance. It’s downstairs.”
Everything around me was like in a movie, and I felt lifted up. Dylan asks me if I can walk, but I move my legs without answering him. I see an ambulance in front of me, when I arrive outside, and I hear him telling me to sit down. When one of the nurses comes near me with a stethoscope I jump into my feet and I push her.
“Take that away from me! I don’t want anything from you! You won’t touch me!”
Dylan approaches me shocked.
“Cara, she’s trying to help you!”
“No! They’re trying to kill me! Like they did with everyone!”
“What are you talking about?”
“No! I just can’t take it anymore!”
“Cara, you have to tell me who’s trying to hurt you! Otherwise, I can’t help you!”
I put my head between my palms and I let myself fall into despair. The tears start falling down on my cheeks. The nurse comes again, this time with a pill and a glass of water in her hands.
“It’s something to calm you down”, she says.
I take it and I swallow it quickly, even if I’m not ok with taking pills. I have my limits too. I wave at her that I’m fine, even if she is skeptical about it. I sit there for another two minutes, then I let her put me an infusion. The criminalists with colored vests come down carrying a bag, where it was probably Ania. My tears are in my throat. It’s my fault. I pluck the infusion from my arm and I get down from the ambulance. I feel my arm hurting.
“I’m coming with you at the police station”, I tell Dylan.
“But like this?”
“Do you want to hear everything I have to say or not?”
He grabs my arm and walks to the car, dragging me with him. I don’t have the energy to tell him that he’s squeezing my arm, so I wait until he let me go. I sit in the car, then I don’t know anything about myself.
“Hey”, I hear at one point.
I open my eyes and we are in front of the police station.
“Sorry, I fell asleep”.
“Don’t apologize. Are you ready to go inside?”
I nod my head and I get out of the car, but the image is rolling with me. I put my hands on the car, and Dylan comes to me.
“Let’s wait a little longer.”
“I’m fine. Let’s get this over with.”
I walk again on that long hallway, where I wasn’t supposed to step the first time I went there. Maybe if I had left things the way they were everyone was alive now. I enter the room where I’m supposed to give my statement, and Dylan sits in front of me.
“So?” he asks.
Dominic walks inside with a bottle of water in his hand. He gives it to me, then he throws Dylan a look which only they could understand.
“What’s up?” asks Dylan.
“What’s with him?”
He can’t say another word about this mysterious Gibson because a man walks inside. He is tall and old, and I can see the harshness in his eyes.
“Dylan, you’re needed in the IT room.”
“Now, Dylan. I got this covered!”
He tried to protest, but he’s finally forced to leave the room.
“Luis Gibson”, he introduces.
I just stare at him. Everything’s happening too fast and I can’t breathe.
“Vandis”, he completes me. “I know. I’m the one in charge from now with your statements.”
“Why isn’t Dylan doing it?”
”Because I need an impartial person on this case!”
”But we don’t...”
“Oh, quiet! I’ve seen how he’s stressing when he’s around you. I’ve seen you last time when that poor man hanged himself!”
„But he didn’t hang...”
„Leave the investigations on me. I’m here to ask questions and you are here to answer them!”
I’m terrified by the situation and I decide to bury the story that I was about to tell Dylan, and all because that, I don’t trust Gibson. I didn’t trust Dylan either, but I don’t know what made me decide to tell him everything. Maybe I was missing a friend.
”I went home, and when I entered I found her on the bed. I think she was poisoned.”
”Why would you believe that?”
“Because she ate from my ice cream, and when I put my hand in it this happened to me!” I say and show him my hand which looked like I’ve put it through the fire.
“Yeah. Other conspiracy theories do you have?”
“Look what. From what I’ve understood from the doctors, your friend has taken a pill overdose.”
“But it’s impossible!”
“Just like it was impossible for your boyfriend to hang himself into the police station?”
He yells at me as if he was blaming me for everything.
“I’m telling you they didn’t die because they wanted to!”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe you have something to do with it, after all. How come Daniel did that when you were alone in the hallway? How did the surveillance system fail exactly when he died? Someone needed that. And how did Ania die just a few minutes before your arrival? Maybe you were there earlier than you told us!”
“This is absurd!”
“You wanted to gain something from their deaths?”
“I can’t believe you’re asking me this!” I say standing up.
“Stop screaming at me!”
Then the door opens and Dylan walks inside, with Dominic behind him, who was trying hard to stop him.
“Gibson! Stop this!”
“You’re yelling at me? Have you forgotten who you’re working for? This is how you make an interrogation!”
“I don’t think so! You’re stalking her! You’re accusing her of doing all the crimes! You can’t see the important details here!”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m not looking at her ass, like you do every time! Do you think I missed those details last time she was here?”
Dylan opens his mouth, but he’s caught unprepared and he closes it. He opens it again, ready to respond, but Gibson stands up.
“We’re going to talk again and soon, young lady!”
He walks me out of that room, and I remain with a shock on my face, with Dylan and Dominic.
“He thinks that I’ve killed them…”
“This is absurd! I’ve been there with her, just a few minutes before it happened!”
Dylan takes a look at my hand.
“She was poisoned. She ate my ice cream. She didn’t even like it. When we were at the store, a woman looked weird at us when we put it into the cart. She hit it. When I got home I put my hand in it by accident, then it started burning me.”
“Have you told Gibson this?”
“Yes. He believes I’m crazy. And a murderer.”
“I will ask around about that ice cream”, says Dominic and walks away.
I want to sit down, but I want to run away at the same time.
“Do you trust Gibson?”
“He’s the head of this station. I don’t have a choice. But I don’t think he’s doing his job in a right way.”
“Cara, I will make him listen. If he doesn’t, I will start an investigation on my own. Something doesn’t seem right to me.”
I gulp and I look straight into his eyes, for the first time since I know him. He seems an honest person, probably the most honest I’ve known so far, but I still have that piece of doubt inside me, so I don’t tell him the whole story.
“Thank you”, I say.
He touches my shoulder, and then he walks me to the front door.
“Hey, wait!” I hear Gibson while he runs to me.
I expect him to arrest me, to call me crazy, but he stops running and says:
“You can’t go back into the apartment. It will be sealed for a long time for investigations. Oh, and we announced her family, and they want to gather her things. And the owner, who is absolutely shocked about what happened.”
I swallow my words and I realize I have no place to go. I put my hand into my pocket and I realize I have the card and some cash.
“Fine”, I answer with a claw in my throat.
Gibson leaves smiling, as if he was enjoying the bad stuff that was falling on my shoulders.
“Do you have a place to go?” Dylan asks me.
“Yeah, I have some friends…” I grumble trying to keep it together.
“You know I can…”
“I have it covered”, I say and I walk away.
I walk on the empty streets, on my way to the ATM near Jin’s, to take some cash and to check how much I had left, because my salary was stopped for the damage. The sunrise catches me on a bench, across the street where the ATM was. I wake up and I check my pockets. I don’t remember how I got there or how I fell asleep. I was too tired.
I get up and I walk to the ATM. I insert the card, the pin, carefully, and then I hear a strange noise. I try again, and again, but it’s rejected. I look up to the clock shining above me. Eight and a half. I look inside the bank and I see some movements. I get inside and I stay in line at the first window.
“Good morning”, accentuates the woman.
“I have a problem. The ATM is rejecting my card. It must be a mistake.”
After a few failed attempts, the woman looks weird at me.
“The identity card.”
“I don’t have it on me.”
“Miss, there’s no account on the name Cara Vandis.”
“Try again, please.”
“I tried three times already.”
I look at her scared. Who was erasing me from existence wasn’t wasting time, and he was too damn good at what he was doing. I leave the card there and I just run on the streets. The legs take me to the park, where I throw myself on the grass. The next thing I know is that I start crying. I don’t understand a lot, or why are those things happening to me, but all I know is that I need to calm down. My hand is hurting, my body is trembling, and I desperately need a shower.