Some people should never play poker

All Rights Reserved ©

An unexpected victim

CHAPTER THREE: An unexpected victim

Amanda had had a really miserable day. She had seen auditions advertised in ‘The Stage’, but when she got there, she was eventually told that ‘she was just not the right fit’ … even for the actual audition. There was some harridan sitting at a front desk vetting people and turning her nose up. Several of them were kept in the outer foyer – (well - as she told her friends when she met up with them later - it was really just a lobby. Theatre! It was not much more than a shed with a stage!) She acted out the scene for them over a coffee in Costa while they decided what they wanted to do, since none of them were currently working, so money was tight. The lack of urgency to leave, made Amanda’s friends somewhat captive to her re-enactment. ‘Some old trout’ (the old trout was probably about only 38 or 39, but she was keeping Amanda from where she felt she ought to be!) with a really snotty voice and looking down her nose at us made us – in front of one another - stand up and say “I’m not long over here, but I have a brother in Leeds’ …. In an Irish accent! Amanda had to admit that ‘accents’ were not her strong suit – maybe New York, or Australian?

They eventually had to leave Costa and since the others had nothing pressing – well nothing unpressing either – that they needed to do, they decided that Amanda’s flat was the most convenient. It was by then after nine, and it was mid-October, so it was cold and dark, and a drizzly rain had started to fall. None of them had sensible clothes on – let alone shoes that would do much good – but the price of a taxi was out of the question. Each of them tried to ring a friend (male preferably) to cadge a lift, and finally Sasha Ramirez (real name Sarah Ramsbottom) managed to track down one of her “hangers on” Giles Gilbert (She turned to the others and explained ..”poor darling, he’s quite fixated on me, but he’s just not … well I just couldn’t go there!”).

After standing under a shop doorway and getting propositioned a number of times, Giles appeared in his very trendy and nippy (“but really not what they are used to!”) Beetle. The car only had two doors, so they made a great fuss about clambering in. They went back to Cavendish Avenue. Amanda was not really bothered whether Fran was home, they were usually quite laid back about who they brought home – which was just as well, because Francesca brought home some very unsavoury guests – though Amanda thought it wisest to say nothing. Some of those dance pupils of hers were really odd! She knew that Francesca preferred teaching the kids – well anyone would – but as she said she had to follow the trend, and the ‘dollar’ and if adults wanted to be taught to dance, then she could take their money as well as any other dance teacher.

Even Amanda and Jinty (Jacobs)… (’trips off the tongue, don’t you know’ - real name Jacinta Jacovski) were a bit embarrassed when Sasha dismissed Giles very unceremoniously when they reached Cavendish Avenue. There was no doubt that he had expected to stay with them, but she virtually shoved him back into the car and said ‘Off you go, Giles. Thanks for the lift. I’ll likely see you around, as usual’. The other two looked at one another, and Amanda bolted for the front door rather than witness any more of the scene. Jinty had the good grace to say to Sasha ’That was a bit harsh, Sash …. Poor sod came out in the rain to do you a favour – you could have been nicer!”

“What? Give him ideas above his station? Not on your life. That’s where you lose out, Jint…. Treat’ em mean, keep em keen!” With that she shoved the protesting Jinty towards the door.

They were still in the throes of the aftermath of this discussion as they headed up the first flight. Nobody seemed to be around and the house seemed relatively quiet, though there was the noise of a TV most likely coming from Alice and Gio’s living room. The boys were probably in bed, since it was by this time well after ten.

As they were passing the door, Alice suddenly appeared hastily throwing the door open as though she expected somebody else to be there.

“Oh, Amanda. Hello girls. You all look soaked! Been out somewhere nice?”

It was a kind of ‘normal’ conversation and one that would, under the circumstances, not seem odd – especially for Alice who was always ultra-polite, even tempered and permanently at home and aware of movement in the house. But her manner seemed expectant and flustered. In an odd way that nobody really took any notice of at the time. Her sudden appearance as she thrust open the door belied her casual words and was more in line with the stiffening of her momentary reaction when she saw them.

“Hi, Alice. Yep it’s piddling down out there. You’re better off in here cosy and warm. What’s the news of Gio’s promotion? He was telling me the other day that he had high hopes this time!”

Alice just imperceptibly stiffened. Since it was Alice, though, verbally she did not react. (Neil would have said ’deep that one! Lovely body, but I just don’t trust her! … Can’t trust a woman that doesn’t cry or lose her rag – just not natural!). Apart from the slight physical twitch and almost undetected blink of her eyes – both of which were gone before most people would even notice – Alice continued apparently unmoved with no real ire or criticism in her voice “Oh, I didn’t know he was telling people? Maybe he should wait until he knows that it’s in the bag …Still poor lamb he is very hopeful. “

Jinty and Sasha must have inadvertently reacted to this dialogue between the two women. Not being familiar with Alice at all, the two strangers had certainly detected kind of frisson of … well annoyance, almost anger …from Alice. She must have detected this because she quickly set about dispelling the mood. She laughed as though she was worried that she had given a bad impression, and said “Perhaps that’s where he is now, celebrating …. Maybe you’re right, Manda, maybe you’re right. Fingers crossed! Please God!”

She retreated back inside her door, calling back ’Have a good evening … keep the noise down. The boys are in bed”. But she laughed good humouredly to take the sting out of the request.

The three girls continued up the last flight of stairs, and Amanda went to put the key in the lock, but the door yielded to her hand, so she assumed that Francesca was already in. Which was strange because the flat appeared to be in darkness.

They went in. The lounge seemed fairly much as it usually was – messy, but clean. Neither of the girls were domestic goddesses, but they were under strict instructions from Georgia to keep it clean – and not encourage vermin …. Whether two legged or four legged”!

Amanda went into the kitchen and saw Francesca’s bag thrown on the countertop – which meant she should be in. Perhaps she had gone to bed? But it was not like her to leave the door not just unlocked, but actually ajar.

Amanda went into Francesca’s bedroom to see if she was ill or something and was annoyed to find Francesca lying on the floor. ‘Annoyed’ rather than ‘alarmed’ because it was not the first time that Francesca had over-estimated her capacity to drink and had returned home – or been returned home – somewhat the worse for wear. Amanda assumed that this time she had not even made it to the bed. So, irrespective of the more ‘sympathetic’ version she would give the police in due course, what Amanda really felt was annoyance. She was further annoyed to find when she knelt down to urge her to get up and ‘stop being a slut’, that she found herself kneeling in a wet patch. That made her even more angry because she assumed that the ‘dirty mare’ had wet herself. She cursed loudly and started to pull at the flaccid arm which gave absolutely no resistance and which was already cold to the touch.

Leaving Francesca where she was, Amanda went across to the light switch, but nothing happened.

Sasha and Jinty, who had originally just stayed in the living room, hearing the commotion, went across to see what was happening. They did not go because they thought anything was wrong, merely because they thought they were being nosy and thought it was a spat between the two flatmates – not completely unheard of, but since each had a reputation as a ‘bit of a hardcase’ it would be worth buying a ticket for.

However, they soon realised – indeed probably quicker than Amanda had – that the scene was not a good one.

Jinty – being more familiar with the flat than Sasha – moved swiftly across and picked up a table lamp in the living room – which though the flex was too short to reach very far, was better than nothing. Putting this down on the floor, she saw a table lamp on a side table adjacent to the window in Francesca’s bedroom, and gathered this up instead. This too was more ornament than use. In the daylight it was unnecessary because the room was already bathed in daylight with the curtains drawn back, and after dark, the wattage on the bulb was so low that it barely gave off more than torch glow in any case. She swore, but left this on too, whilst fiddling to find the torch app on her own mobile and shouting unceremoniously to Sasha to do the same.

Between all of these it was just enough light to confirm that it was Francesca sprawled on the floor.

“Dead to the world” … was Amanda’s caustic comment with a distasteful sneer. “She never could hold her liquer!”

Jinty thought otherwise. As she looked down at the too still, too dishevelled woman on the ground, she knew. She just knew. She’d been in that very situation before – and she had no wish to live through it again. Every bone in her body, every instinct, urged her to get the hell out. She had never explained to anybody – well anybody that did not know even better than herself – just what horrors had made her who, what she was. She had, though, grown a much tougher skin over the years, and she knew she had to get a grip. There was a chance that Sasha knew about her past, but Amanda most definitely did not, and she preferred it that way. She had tried for years to bury the past, she needed to work hard to make sure that that was not all undone. On the other hand, that poor cow – like last time – was not drunk. She was dead.

Jinty bent down to confirm her thoughts before she set Amanda off. She knew she would, naturally, be upset, afraid - it was really not nice to find your flatmate lying dead on the floor – as Jinty knew only too well - but Amanda couldn’t help herself … the actress would kick in too!

“Dead, Mand, but she ain’t drunk … she is really dead!”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.