It was near sunset when Charlie got to the park. A cool spring breeze was blowing through the trees and the view was perfect for his first outdoor painting. He breathed in the fresh twilight air. "It's nice to be out of that tiny black hole of Calcutta", he thought. His flat was just big enough for him, and with his mother staying over life had become nearly unbearable, especially with her annoying little habit of picking holes in everything. And to top it off, she could carry on and on about something like there was no tomorrow. He had had it up to here with her constant nagging, so he decided to take out his canvas and easel and paint something under the approaching sunset. On his way to the park he even went the whole hog and bought one of those berets one sees painters wearing in old movies. He thought it gave him a kind of distinctive, old-fashioned look.
He started outlining the buildings one after the other, losing himself in the soothing rhythm of the moving brush. Suddenly something caught his eye. He looked around the dormant neighbourhood and, on one of the balconies, a man and a woman seemed to be having an argument. It did not look pretty. Apparently the woman was giving him the old heave-ho and the man seemed less than happy about it. In fact, he seemed to be getting very worked up. Trying not to be bothered by that ruckus he struggled to focus on the surroundings, but the couple was really wreaking havoc. The man's face was getting redder and redder by the minute and it seemed as if all hell was about to break loose. By that moment they had grown too loud to pass unnoticed. Suddenly Charlie noticed a small flash as the setting sun touched a reflecting surface. "Is that a kitchen knife?... No, he wouldn't have the heart to do it..." But he did, apparently, and with a turn of the wrist the enraged man dug the knife deep into the woman's chest. Charlie's heart skipped a beat.
He could not, hard as he tried, get his head round what he had just witnessed. What to do? Should he call the police? Should he...? No, he decided to go to the place. He knew he must be a little soft in the head to do such an imbecilic hing, but something on the back of his mind pushed him to take such a bold step. He did not need to think it through; he was set on being the hero, at least this once. He would not sit on his hands, he would see if the woman was still alive, if there was something he could do for her. He ran hell for leather, still somewhat unsure of what he was going to do. When he reached the spot his heart was racing and all he could hear was a constant pounding in his ears. What if the man was still inside? He needed a stabbing like a hole in the head. He listened carefully for any sound that could work as a clue for what awaited him on the other side of the door; it would not be a very clever move to walk right into the hand of an assassin, but neither could he stand there in eternis, looking out for a sound that would not come. He reached for the doorknob; it was cold under his sweating palm. He turned it slowly, wishing it not to move. But the gods plays funny tricks, and a subtle click warned him of a necessary next step in this little adventure of his.
You fool, you truly are a head case.
This was pure madness! He had no plan whatsoever and this chilvaric idea of saving the damsel in distress was just full of holes. First because most modern damsels would take issue against the very principle of ever needing rescuing, second because murderers would probably frown upon it as well. He entered slowly, breathing heavily. He looked around the living room, recognizing the window he had previously seen and was shocked by the fact that there was no sign of the man, let alone the woman. No blood, just a whiteness of walls and floor and a little mist creeping through the open window.
He leaned on the wall for balance. He was in way over his head. He had seen her, he cold see her right now; white creamy skin, eyes like the ocean and dark, raven hair. She was perfect and he killed her, that monster stabbed her.
Calm down Charlie, breath in breath out, just try and keep your head above water.
Sarah would laugh so hard if she could see him. "You little punk", she used to say, little Sarah used to say, so long ago.
Poor little Charlie, playing with pebbles on the pavement.
"Focus, I need to focus". He saw them, he was sure of it, by the window. In his heart of hearts he knew he did. He walked to the window. Nothing there: just glass and wood and fabric of some strange colourless tone.
Charlie, Charlie, in what mess are you now?
Sarah, she just had the sweetest voice. Little drops of cold water in the summer, that was her voice. Screams in the back of his mind, could not think, just focus. He walked the empty flat like a ghost, hovering over the corpse he could not find and the murderer he would not meet.
Charlie... Charlie... where are you now, Charlie boy?
His mother, another Sarah. The first Sarah had a voice of someone else, harsh and coarse; a coughing more than a voice. She dressed in linen that smelled of sweat and work and little Chalie was always in the way. "Charlie, will you be a good boy?" "Yes." "Promise?" "Cross my heart." Charlie, Charlie, always Charlie never once Charles, why ever give him the chance to feel like a bloody grown up? And the second Sarah was just the same, one with the first Sarah. Women... like Henry he could have conquered Europe, but he had women in his life.
He stopped in the middle of the white hall and put his hands to his ears to drown the noise. Too crowded, way too crowded, he could not hear himself think. Locked again in that tiny black hole of Calcutta. The white walls started to fade away and give place to other, padded, white walls. "Calm down Mr. Gunn, calm down". Hands strapping him down to a hard mattress. He laughed, a sad, loud laugh. Someone treated him like an adult after all. He saw in his mind the glassy dead eyes of the first Sarah and the trusting pleading fading eyes of the second Sarah.
Poor little Charlie, you said you'd be good.