Trying hard to keep my eyes open, I climb up to my room to rummage for the key in my pocket. The first part of my mission accomplished, I return to Leo, hand him the key, doze off at once and don’t wake up until the engine stops humming.
Leo has parked the car around the corner to avoid any risk. I follow him sheepishly, wishing to get out of this mess as fast as I can and go back to sleep was it with or without a skeleton in my closet. Before treading on dangerous ground, Leo looks cautiously about. I wonder why. Whom would one expect to meet at this ungodly hour? I watch Leo’s pallid face superimposed against the dim light and I wish he would hold me tight to reassure me that I am not following a ghost in this false rendering of a panting melodrama about perfidy and death.
With a mournful thud the lift comes to a halt. Leo snatches my hand and drags me through the eerie corridor coiling itself up around us in a reptilian clasp. The key screeches in the lock, the door cracks open. Leo pushes me into the darkness striped with the pale glow of the moon. Leo’s staccato breathing is drumming against the total stillness of the room. I strain my ears to hear a second breath. The dark bundle on the carpet is ominously still. Leo’s hand, groping its way along the wall to find the switch, is trembling.
“There isn’t any ceiling lamp, Leo. Just spotlights above the bed.”
I keep standing, rooted to the spot, curbing my urge to let sleeping dogs lie and flee before being confronted with the evidence of a corpse upon the carpet.
“What are you waiting for, Irene? Turn the light on!”
Carefully skirting around Egon’s body, I switch the spotlights on. With a warped fascination, I watch Leo kneeling down and lifting the inert hand of his father, feeling for pulse.
“He’s alive,” he says with professional detachment.
“He must be transported to the hospital. How could you let him lying naked on the floor, Irene? He is ice-cold! Get some hot water, soap and towel. He’s all clammy. Move on, Irene! I need not tell you where the bathroom is, do I?”
I pour hot water into the champagne cooler, get a wash-glove, a cake of soap and a towel from the heating-rack, go back to the room and put the things down beside Egon.
“I’ll examine his wound first. Hold him.”
I sit down on the carpet. Leo lifts his father up and sets him into my arms. Feeling like Mary Magdalene in a scene from the “Mystery of the Passion”, I prop up my lover’s head against my breasts.
“How bad is it, Leo?”
“Bad enough. The scanner will show the extent of the damage. Unfortunately, we can’t avoid a blood-test which will record the cocaine. My only hope is to chance upon a friend who will be willing to cover the results up. I’ll phone the ward, find out who is on duty at the laboratory and call an ambulance. Tidy him up in the meantime.”
He stretches a blanket on the floor and lays Egon on it.
“Be careful, Irene! Any harsh movement is dangerous.”
Cool and impersonal in my part of nurse, I wash the unconscious body of my lover.
“Well done, my dear! Now we’ll put on his dressing gown.
I push Egon’s rigid arms into the red silk sleeves and tie the belt around his waist.
“I don’t need you anymore, Irene. The ambulance will be here any moment now. The men had better not to see you. Take a cab. I wish I knew how to explain to your parents why you’re coming home so late and unescorted.”
“I don’t think they will notice. And if they do I’ll say that your father had an accident and we took him to the hospital and I didn’t wish to wait until you had time to escort me home.”
“How resourceful you are, my dear! Well, you’ve got a lot of practice. Good night, Irene. Egon will pull through. Don’t worry.”
Dear Leo! I let him in charge of Egon, call a cab and drive home where nobody noticed my absence. Whatever happens next, I can get by. Leo will never let me down. I trust him.