Some days later I visited Mason’s house and saw a different face open the front door, slightly older than the one I’d been used to.
She moved away from the door to allow me entrance but said nothing. I walked to the kitchen as I always did and sat down. She followed me in but remained standing.
‘You didn’t come to the funeral.’ she said.
‘No. I wanted to. But after what you and I were doing, it wouldn’t have felt right.’
‘Where has the guilt suddenly come from?’ she asked. ‘No one else knew about our arrangement so I can’t understand your decision. He was still your friend.’
‘I thought I’d be the last person you’d want to see.’ I said, hopefully. She finally sat down.
‘The girl said she didn’t know why Mason killed her boyfriend and then himself. I don’t know why either. That’s the hardest part to take with all this, his reasons. Why would he shoot a blind man in his own garden? Why would anyone do that?’
I gave a curious expression.
‘I honestly don’t know. The first I heard about it was in the papers. I couldn’t believe it.’
‘It was mentioned that there was someone else in the garden with them at the time.’ she said. ‘The police want to talk with him. Do you know anything about that?’
‘The girlfriend said she returned home and found the two bodies in the garden but she told police that three men had arrived. She was adamant that the third man had something to do with it.’
‘Why would she say that?’
‘Why are you even asking? If two people are dead, don’t you think finding him would help solve all this?’
‘Maybe he left before they were killed.’ I suggested. ‘Didn’t the girl see anything?’
‘Apparently not. She’d left the house at the time.’
‘He shouldn’t be that hard to find though, surely.’ I said.
‘You would think not. She even had a conversation with him. She said it was a school friend of her boyfriend. She was found by a neighbour, kneeling by the bodies and in a terrible state. The police say she’s gone half-mad and are having problems with her explanations. She’s in care at the moment.’
‘I’m not surprised, poor thing.’
‘But what she said about three people being there is right. The police have confirmed it. And they have problems with the killings.’
‘Because Mason was right-handed. They asked me to confirm it and I told them. Yet the gun was found in his left hand. Don’t you think that strange?’
‘I suppose it is.’
‘That’s why they’re looking for this other person. They’re looking for you, Lenton.’
I tried to show surprise but it didn’t look convincing.
‘Why are they looking for me?’
‘You were there, don’t deny it. Mason told me he was meeting with you that morning.’
‘I was at home all day.’ I replied. ‘I didn’t receive any messages from Mason or anyone else.’
‘Then you’d better tell the police.’
‘Have you told the police about me?’
‘No, not yet.’
’Are you going to?
We both looked at each other and read the same invisible lines. And the longer we stared at each other, the clearer the understanding became.
‘We could be happy.’ I told her, ‘And I wouldn’t spend my time in the garden for hours alone. I’d spend them with you. As Mason should have done.’
‘Is that why you killed my husband?’
That’s when she confirmed the end of any chance of us being together when she spoke in the possessive noun. The mention of it excluded me from their union, even though death had already ended it.
‘It’s a pity.’ I told her, ‘because I think we were beginning to enjoy our arrangement at last. The kissing helped a lot, don’t you agree?’
She had a look of defeat.
‘Yes.’ she said, though I knew it was only a word to occupy me while her mind was working out a way to avoid the inevitable.
‘Now,’ I said, ‘this can either end amicably, with you and I remaining together for the foreseeable future, or the other extreme, which isn’t in any way pleasant. What do you say?’
If she’d replied in my favour straight away, I’d have been convinced she was desperate to say anything to save herself. But I think she actually considered the proposition carefully. She looked downwards, calm, and reflective.
‘You’re asking me to choose between life and my love of someone.’
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘someone who is no longer alive.’
‘And you think that just because he’s dead, the love we shared dies with him?’
It was a point I had no choice but to acknowledge.
‘No. I knew I was asking a lot. But I had to give it a try anyway.’
She looked up from the table straight into my eyes.
‘Whatever happens next, I don’t want there to be any blood.’ she said, ‘I’d be grateful for that.’
Maybe that’s why I was beginning to fall in love with her because she showed a devotion that was impregnable. Even our affair wasn’t strong enough to break it. She was as unattainable to me as the peak of Everest.
‘There’ll be no blood, I promise.’
I moved my chair next to hers and placed my arms around her. I leaned her head slightly back and covered my mouth over hers, at the same time holding her nose. She knew that to struggle would have been a traumatic conclusion. I, of course, had to hold my breath longer than she did.
To the ticking of the kitchen clock and the distant humming sound of the traffic beyond the garden, the seconds passed as I kept her fastened to me in a tight embrace. The seconds accumulated, and I felt her fingers grip my arm. Not to resist, but to concentrate. Then her body went limp and she passed out. I took a further deep breath and repeated the clamped kiss as she lay motionless, this time for longer. When I moved my lips from hers, I looked into her face and saw her eyes closed, her lips slightly parted. Her mouth still showed the rouge colour from the pressure from my lips as I stole her life. I even felt the initial sensation of arousal that obeyed the natural ways of the body in that familiar closeness. Easily fooled, I thought, which only proved my point: Love works on its own momentum, independent from even the most appalling intentions. For all that, being kissed to death sounds more compassionate than murder by asphyxiation.