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Chapter 21

Knowing his uncle was the only person trustworthy enough to supply an alibi; Bruno was desperate to return to his apartment. He threw his coat over the back of a kitchen chair, and a dull thud reminded him of the perfume bottle he had secreted in one pocket.

He discarded the cellophane wrap onto the floor, extracted the perfume bottle from its box, and took a sniff. The scent brought back memories, and his senses reignited. As Barbara’s favourite perfume again filled his nostrils, memories of her and naked Katherine bombarded his brain. However, the euphoria was short lived. Realizing time was his enemy and wasting away, he put the bottle onto the table alongside the empty box and hurried to the shower.

“I need a fuckin’ alibi. I have to see my uncle, before the cops come.” He was convinced they would.

He rubbed his stubbled face as he looked in the bathroom mirror. “Fuck it!” he mumbled. Deciding against shaving he then stepped into an pair of old jeans and put on a clean but wrinkled shirt, before depositing the evidence-riddled pants into the bottom of the wardrobe. “I have to wait for Uncle to return,” he mumbled. To be in earshot of the stairs he placed a kitchen chair against the inside of the front door. “I can’t sit on the couch, I’ll fall asleep,” he muttered, as he made a cup of hot coffee.

Sitting and standing became repetitious, and boredom had turned to tiredness. The nodding of his sleep-induced head forced him to vacate the chair and embark on another round of coffee consumption.

Stan’s stumbling on the stairs brought forth a number of profanities that echoed throughout the building.

From experience, Bruno knew he would go through the same routine. Trying to insert the key into the lock, then followed by a mandatory loud thud after falling against a closing door.

The exposed perfume bottle and its ripped box lying on the table caught Bruno’s eye. He did not know why, but intuition told him to remove them.

After dropping the two items into the wardrobe’s top drawer, he made his way to Stan’s apartment.

Lying on the bed in an inebriated sleep was his uncle, and he was only in boxer shorts and singlet. Bruno looked at him in amazement. How can anyone drunk end up on the bed, and undressed? He’s a master at it.

Bruno knew he could not leave the apartment without an alibi, so he decided to settle himself on the couch and wait for Stan to crawl from his drunken cocoon.

He heard Stan stumbling about in his bedroom, then, “Fuck!” Stan was rubbing a large red welt on his forehead when he emerged

“Morning,” Stan mumbled.

“Want coffee, Uncle?”

“Yeah.” Although the single word was blunt, it spoke volumes about his hangover.

They sat at the kitchen table looking into their coffee mugs, silently waiting for the passing of time. Bruno glanced up at him, and thought, I have to be careful about askin’ for an alibi. The way he is he’ll have trouble understandin’ me. Now’s the only time I’ll get! It’s important we tell the cops the same stories.

“I didn’t mean to hurt her, I swear. I just lost control.”

Although he spoke of his infatuation for Katherine, he tried minimizing the impact of his actions.

A drum was pounding in Stan’s skull. “What the fuck are you talking about? How’d you get in?”

“I rang the doorbell, and when the woman answered the door I kicked it. She fell and hit her head on the floor.”

“What woman?” Stan was even more confused.

“An old woman who was there.”

“Are you fucking crazy? Do you know what’s going to happen when the cops come?”

“If they come I want you to say I was with you.” Bruno did not want to beg for his uncle’s help, not unless he had to.

I don’t need this shit! All I want to do is throw up. Stan was not only in an agitated state, his head pounded louder the more Bruno spoke. However, Bruno was omitting the more gruesome details deliberately.

“What are you dragging me into? The cops leave me alone and I leave them alone! The ones from around here know I work on Saturday so I can’t say you were with me. What the fuck? Do you know how much shit you’re in?” Stan’s yelling was explosive.

“I know, but I need your help. I need an alibi, and you’re the only one who can give one.”

Shit, Bruno! If you weren’t my nephew I’d turn you in,” Stan said, in a toned down voice. “What makes you think the cops are going to question you?”

“Because Katherine’s the daughter of my psychologist, and I’ve been to the apartment before. But, only once. As soon as the cops find out they’ll question me.”

If you get me in trouble, I’ll snap your fucking neck!” What shit do you want me to say? It’d better be good.” Stan was furious.

Bruno knew he had won. His uncle had come over, to be on his side. “I’ll say I was in bed after comin’ home from work on Friday ‘cause I was sick and you came to see me in the afternoon. Then yesterday I went to your place. We had somethin’ to eat before you went out. If the cops ask what we ate, just say pasta with tomato. We didn’t watch TV and I went back to bed.” Bruno went on to explain other details he considered a prerequisite for his alibi.

Stan looked at his nephew incredulously. The bastard has snared me. “You’ve certainly worked on that! How long did it take you to work it out?” he asked, in disbelief.

“Not long. Keep it simple, they say.” I heard it somewhere.

“There’s more to this. I don’t think you’ve told me the whole story. What have you left out? If I don’t hear all of it, I’m not giving you an alibi. Got it? You decide!” Stan was adamant as he glared at Bruno.

Knowing his uncle would not back down from his demands, Bruno thought, either I tell him everythin’, or I get locked up.

As Stan listened to Bruno’s verbal carnage, he was finding it hard to believe that one of his relatives could enact such evil on two women.

“To save your arse I have to lie to the police, or you’ll get locked up. Is that the deal? You shouldn’t be walking around. You should be in a cage.” Stan’s hostility to his nephew had increased to being almost explosive.

I like my uncle, but he has to lie … even if it means he goes to jail.

Stan rose from the chair and looked out of the kitchen window. As he watched the snow slowly falling, he thought, it looks peaceful out there, but’s colder in here … and dirty.

Frustration got the better of him. He wrenched the fridge door open and snatched a can of cold beer from the top shelf. Without drawing breath, the amber fluid swilled down his throat.

The empty can he crushed with his right hand, before throwing it into the sink.

The sound of it hitting the bottom of the sink jolted Bruno slightly. He’s really pissed off! I’d better keep my mouth shut.

Stan glared at him with disgust. “I’ll give you the fucking alibi, but after today you won’t talk to me or come here. Got me? If you come to the diner, stay away from me. Do you understand?

Bruno’s hesitation was all that Stan needed. “Get the fuck out of here, and don’t come back!

As he walked slowly from the apartment, Bruno thought, it’s too bad I won’t have my uncle ’round to talk to, but I’ve achieved my aim. Fuck him, I’ve got my alibi. That’s all that matters.

Detective Andretta knocked on Bruno’s door for the second time as Detective Perez stood near. Even with not receiving an answer, they were still content. They were out of the chilly wind on that Tuesday morning.

“Why don’t we have a cup of coffee in the diner and ask about him while we’re there?” Detective Andretta said, to his partner.

“Great idea,” Detective Perez replied, with gloved hands in her coat pockets.

Having sat at the counter, Detective Andretta ordered coffees, then flashed his badge to Nick. “Do you know a man called Bruno Novak?”

“Sure, but he’d be at work about now.”

“Do you know what time he finishes?”

“I’m not sure … probably about four.”

“Thanks.” Detective Andretta turned to his partner, just as he picked up the hot cup. “We could go to where he works.”

They walked out, and immediately the bitterly cold wind and the dampness of the snow assaulted them.

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