Isabelle- An Occult Thriller- Ch 9

Book Cover
Book Cover

Isabelle

An Occult Thriller by Tony DeLorger © 2011


CHAPTER NINE

Adam was painting furiously, his brush a blur as Wagner soared through the studio at great volume; seemingly ricocheting around the structural beams and stirring the vast open space with its tumultuous crescendos. The sun streamed through the skylight above, lighting up the canvas in front of him and helping to guide his masterful hands to find form across the virgin surface. Colours, rich and textured, were dragged and amassed, smudged and smoothed into shape, Adam’s mind lost in the beauty of pure creativity. He was in his element, thriving on the rush of adrenaline and the purity of expressing himself so freely.

After life had finally settled down, Adam had once again found his artistic niche and for days had worked so fervently, he had hardly slept at all. He felt so inspired that completed works were being churned out at a great rate and Adam considered them some of his best work ever. Peter Tripp, a friend and local gallery owner, was so impressed with these recent canvases; he’d begun to organise an exhibition marked down for October. Adam was ecstatic; finally feeling back on track with his painting and realising the exhibition could restore his ever-depleting funds.

Everything were looking up and Adam, not having to consider anything else, threw himself into his work. As he painted, he swayed with the music, letting it flow through his hands like ever changing emotions. Soft gentle strokes accompanying the subtle melodies and the stirring passages of music inspired boldness of colour and contrast. Adam melded into the sounds and his hands transferred this assimilation to the painting in perfect harmony. This was ‘Adam heaven’.

Amid a quieter passage of music, Adam noticed the phone was ringing. He had already ignored it once, having been swept away in his trance-like state, so he thought that perhaps this time he should answer it. Taking a last look at the work in progress, he placed his pallet and brush down and ambled over to the phone. He found it buried deep under the usual pile of rags and magazines.

‘Yeah?’ he grumbled, less than enthusiastic.

‘It’s me Ad, Isabelle. How’s the painting going?’ she enquired, knowing he’d been doing nothing but.

‘Oh, sorry I didn’t return your calls,’ Adam apologised. ‘I’m just so productive at the moment, I have to go with it. You understand?’

‘Feel like some company?’ she asked, a little apprehensively, but with an underlying insistence.

Adam looked at his painting for a moment, then made himself refocus. ‘Sure, I could do with a break, come on over,’ he replied, relenting and happy to catch up.

‘See you soon then?’

‘OK!’

Adam hung up the phone, turned the music back up and got straight back into the beckoning canvas. His hair was loosely pulled back and tied with an elastic band and his T-shirt and jeans were covered with paint splatters. Adam’s bare feet tapped enthusiastically on the floorboards as he danced in front of the easle, swaying in time to the music and adding to his masterpiece, a touch here, a dab there. Adam was an eccentric, totally devoted to one thing, his work.

As always the day-to-day necessities like grooming, eating and general life maintenance rarely occurred to him and his appearance was indeed a testament to it.

Some time passed and the painting that Adam was working on was just about complete. As his feet once again found earth and his artistic outpouring subsided, he realised that Isabelle had still not arrived. It had been over an hour since her call and he suddenly became concerned.

‘What could be taking her so long?’ he mumbled. Her flat was no more than a ten-minute trip by car and he’d even walked it in half an hour. Just then, as Adam wiped his hands on a cloth by the easel, a loud rap on the front door startled him. It thundered through the studio, echoing forebodingly and Adam raced to the door in response to its urgency. He pulled hard on the heavy door and Isabelle, distressed and in tears, fell helplessly into his arms.

‘What’s the matter? What’s happened?’ he asked, that familiar feeling of confusion, suddenly returning. Isabelle could barely speak and Adam closed the door and led her to the sofa where he sat her down and held her consolingly. She was so upset that she was gasping for breath, trying unsuccessfully to explain between waves of constant tears.

‘Calm down. It’ll be OK, I’m here,’ he whispered in an attempt to soothe her. ‘Shhhh.’

Adam slowly rocked her comfortingly and after several minutes her breathing began to return to normal and she eventually calmed down. Adam fetched a glass of water and after she took a sip, Isabelle sat forward with the glass held between both hands, staring worriedly at the floor.

‘Come on, tell me what happened?’ asked Adam.

Isabelle looked up with soulful eyes and began. ‘I had a visitor, just after I hung up from you,’ she said, holding back another wave of emotion.

‘Who?’ asked Adam with concern.

‘He works at the cemetery, where Blaskin is buried,’ she said, her voice trembling. ‘It was strange really, I’ve never even seen the man, but he came to warn me.’

‘About what?’ enquired Adam, unable to imagine anything else after Blaskin’s final death.

‘A friend of Blaskin’s, actually. His name is Carver, Heinz Carver. I saw him at the funeral, he used to come to the house a fair bit; apparently he paid for everything. I don’t know him,’ she added, still gasping a little, her eyes filled with tears.

‘This man from the cemetery, he thinks that I’m in danger. He found an amulet that Carver left at the gravesite.’

A wave of emotion suddenly swept her away. ‘My God, if Carver was a member of Blaskin’s group, maybe he wants to finish the job,’ she cried, falling into Adam’s arms, frightened and trembling. Adam held her tightly and as her words slowly sunk in, his expression changed, becoming almost vacant as he slumped back into the sofa. A feeling of panic suddenly rose within him with a heavy feeling that seemed like the problems of the world were on his shoulders.

When everything seemed to be so right, back on track, the past was returning to haunt him. ‘Why?’ he thought, confused. It almost felt like a punishment, having to go through all of this again.

‘Look, you’d better stay here tonight, just in case.

At least you’ll be safe here,’ he said, gently laying Isabelle down on the sofa to rest.

Adam sat on the arm of the sofa and looked pensively out across the bay. Life always seemed so ordered and peaceful out there- like a photograph, beautiful on the surface but rarely displaying the struggle beneath. The underlying reality was always a far more complex story. He sat there almost numb, his heart racing, his mind spinning, trying to deal with the possibility that this whole affair may not be over after all.

………………………………..

Bob went straight to Hannah’s after a rather confusing meeting with Isabelle, and threw himself into the task. He loved Hannah; she would always be his little sister and princess, even though she was now in her fifties.

She was recently widowed and Bob took it on himself to care for his sister as he had done when she was a child; Hannah was more than happy with the arrangement. She was always the helpless, defenseless one in the family and Bob, being the eldest had remained the gallant one, coming to her defence with monotonous regularity. Mary had often gritted her teeth over Hannah’s rather annoying feminine wiles, but in the end knew that Bob would always love her and after all, it was he that was compelled to attend to Hannah’s needs. Mary was an understanding person and knew the value in taking a step back and not creating unnecessary friction.

Bob had pruned nearly everything in the yard when Hannah emerged from the back door of the house with a tray carrying fresh homemade lemonade. It was a pleasant

Summer’s day and Bob was happy to put down the tools and take a break. They sat in the shade of an old oak tree that took up half the yard and sipped the icy cold lemonade.

‘Oh that’s wonderful,’ said Bob, wiping the sweat from his brow.

‘Always been your favourite, Bobby,’ replied Hannah, with a warm smile. ‘Is Mary well?’

Bob grinned without turning, still gazing up through the complex pattern of branches above. ‘With all those remedies she makes, no germ would go anywhere near her,’ he quipped. Hannah chuckled and leant back in her chair, enjoying the infused light and comfort of being under such a majestic jewel of nature.

Tired from his work, Bob eased back and his mind began to drift, still confused by his visit with Isabelle. Her reaction was so odd and was playing on his mind. She was friendly enough, but obviously weary, and when he showed her the amulet, she denied point-blank having ever seen it. Bob of course couldn’t imagine why and sat there with a bewildered look on his face. But when he started talking about the man who placed it at the grave and that Bob felt she was in danger, she immediately hardened and became dismissive.

‘He’s a friend of Blaskin’s, that’s all,’ she said sharply. ‘Why would I be in danger?’

Bob sat there aghast, confused and rather embarrassed that he’d intruded on her at all. He humbly apologised and quietly left, feeling even more bewildered and unsettled than before. He knew damned well she’d seen the amulet. What was she hiding and why?

None of this made any sense, but for Bob this was the end of the line, what more could he do? He would have to do what Mary had first suggested, forget about it and move on. However for Bob, that wasn’t so easy, this dilemma had captured his curiosity and in the back of his mind, he knew that he couldn’t just let it go.

…………………………………….

The following morning was overcast. Dark troubled clouds hung low over the bay and the smell of imminent rain sweetened the air. Isabelle had slept well; being with Adam made her feel safe and she stretched out on the sofa, not quite ready to greet the day.

Adam had once again broken tradition and in honour of his unexpected guest, decided to shave and shower early. This process didn’t happen all that often but when it did, Adam approached it as he did his art. It was like a ritual, thorough and methodical. He spent almost an hour in the bathroom, steam billowing out from under the door. When he was finished, there was not a cleaner artist on the planet.

The bathroom door burst open and a cloud of steam mushroomed out like an atomic explosion. From within the dense cloud appeared Adam with a towel wrapped around his waist, his hair hanging in ringlets down over his shoulders. He was on top of the world, even with this latest glitch. His painting had never been better, he had an exhibition coming up and in a way it was good to be needed, it gave him a sense of belonging and a momentary break from his impassioned self-reliance.

‘Wake up sleepy head!’ he said, passing the sofa on his way to the kitchen. He quickly surveyed the kitchen cupboards, then turned to Isabelle, who was now in a sitting position, yawning.

‘Damn! Looks like we have to shop. There’s just about nothing here,’ he muttered.

Isabelle was hardly conscious but sleepily made her way to the bathroom without a word. Adam dressed quickly and peered out into the brooding sky. If they were to shop it would have to be soon; rain was definitely on the way.

After a hurried shower, Isabelle dressed and was jostled out the door. They headed straight for the deli with no time to lose. Isabelle was quiet but seemed OK and Adam felt a brisk walk and the colour of the markets might brighten her up.

As they walked briskly down the street toward the deli, thunder growled in the far distance, warning of the coming storm. They turned the corner and Adam put his arm around Isabelle.

‘You remember this place, when we first met?’ he said, opening the deli door. The brass bell on the door jingled frantically, heralding their arrival. ‘Someone I want you to meet,’ he added.

‘Ah, Mr. Bishop,’ came a voice from behind the counter. ‘And with a friend, expanding our artistic horizons are we?’ she said wittily.

‘Isabelle, I’d like to introduce you to my culinary saviour, Mrs. Steinbeck,’ said Adam, bowing in homage.

‘Hi!’ said Isabelle. ‘I’m pleased to meet you.’

Mrs. Steinbeck looked at Isabelle with a warm smile. ‘Very pretty. So this is what’s been keeping you busy, Adam,’ she added playfully.

Adam abandoned his smile and pointedly furrowed his brow. ‘Hand me a basket woman, I mean business,’ he demanded.

‘And what could keep you from it?’ replied Mrs. Steinbeck, handing over the basket and shooing them away from the counter. Adam swept Isabelle away into the depths of the deli, revealing many fascinating bottles and packets, slowly piling up wondrous delicacies into their basket. His enthusiasm was infectious and soon Isabelle was making discoveries of her own, delighted with this overpowering and addictive distraction.

Twenty minutes and many more dollars later, they left the deli, Mrs. Steinbeck and her quaint little shop having helped to brighten up their morning. They hurried home just as the first drops of rain began to fall.

When they reached the studio it was pouring and they laughed and stumbled into the stairwell, seeking shelter from the deluge. ‘Thank God!’ shouted Isabelle. ‘I was certain we were going to drown.’

She sat on the step, out of breath, Adam slumped next to her panting like a dog. ‘I’ve got to exercise more,’ he slurred, trying to calm his erratic breathing. Isabelle reached over and ran her fingers gently through his long wet ringlets.

‘Like a drowned rat,’ she quipped, with a loving smile. Adam looked at her, his eyes softening, his face dripping from the rain. He gently pulled her face toward his and kissed her tenderly on her full, slightly parted lips. The warmth of the kiss lingered for more than a minute, then, as if neither of them knew what to say Isabelle rose to her feet.

‘If we don’t change, we’ll both get pneumonia,’ she said, making a dash for it up the stairs. Adam followed laughing, and fumbling for his key. They both burst into the studio, clutching their hoard of delicacies and with the thud from the door closing behind them; they slumped into two dining chairs, delivering their over-packed bags safely onto the table.

They sat there for a minute or two catching their breath and resting from the exertion, before retiring to the bathroom to dry their hair and to remove their wet clothing. They hardly spoke, but their eyes wandered and their hearts warmed just being like this, together. Within this strange circumstance it seemed oddly inappropriate to follow their hearts and to consummate this growing relationship. Instead, they both held back, not prepared to be released into the hands of fate.

As they sorted through their haul, choosing a menu for brunch, Adam suddenly became serious and sat Isabelle down at the table. She looked up at him worriedly.

‘Do you honestly think this man Carver is really after you? It doesn’t make any sense. Blaskin’s gone- we saw that with our own eyes. Without him what would be the point of your sacrifice?’ asked Adam, still confused.

Isabelle rested her chin on her folded arms before her and thought about Adam’s question. Tears began to well in her eyes, as she tried to contain herself.

‘I don’t know a thing about this business. But I do know that Blaskin was capable of anything and if Carver was in it with him, then there’s a good chance I’ve got a lot to worry about,’ she said, her voice a little shaky.

‘God, you’re right,’ said Adam, realising he was trying to play down her concern. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to..’

‘Don’t apologise Ad, I don’t understand all of this either. I’m just scared, that’s all,’ she said, moving closer to him.

He stroked her hair soothingly and wondered what else they could do. The idea of just waiting for something to happen was like water torture, drip by drip, robbing you of your sensibilities and twisting your nervous system into a mangled mess.

‘Come on, we can’t dwell on this, we’ll both go crazy. Let’s have this brunch,’ he suggested, rising to his feet to get some plates. Isabelle sat up and wiped her eyes, straightening herself.

While Adam prepared their midmorning feast, Isabelle tidied up the studio, which was no mean feat. Adam had never been a good housekeeper; in fact the idea had eluded him. So she did the best she could, if only superficially until Adam appeared from the kitchen with a platter that looked as if it had come from the servery of a royal court.

Together they sat enjoying each other’s company and the culinary sensations in front of them, for the moment putting aside their fears and concerns. The compensation of being close to each other was for both, the one thing that kept them sane and able to cope with this seemingly never-ending drama. The connection between the two seemed to be growing, their needs quickly becoming wants, their affection becoming much more than either had expected.

After the feast they were exhausted, but satisfied, the remnants of their feeding frenzy covered the knotted wooden table like the spoils of a battlefield. They both looked at each other with pleading eyes, neither prepared to face the clean up; it would have to wait.

Adam stretched out, leaning back on his chair while Isabelle leant her head on the table and sighed deeply. A great deal could be said at this point about too much of a good thing, but there was no admission of guilt only the aftermath of laying waste to such an enormous quantity of food.

Not a word was spoken, and in the end Adam rose slowly to his feet and wandered out on to the balcony. There was a break in the heavy cloud cover and the first rays of sunshine poked through onto the wet earth below. He leant on the railing and looked down at the basketball-like protrusion that was his overfilled stomach. As he then peered down onto the walkway below a figure immediately caught his eye. A man stood motionless below, looking up.

Isabelle yawned and stumbled out to the balcony, colliding with Adam at the railing and groaning. But as she looked down, she gasped in fright and stepped back against the wall. Adam turned quickly in response to her unexpected reaction.

‘It’s him,’ she whispered. ‘Carver.’

Isabelle slipped inside, her heart thumping in her chest. Adam looked down at the man, completely incensed. ‘Wait here!’ he said to Isabelle as he rushed for the door. Isabelle, in a panic, sat on the edge of the sofa and shook uncontrollably, while Adam flew down the stairs and out around the side of the building to the walkway. He skidded to a halt on the concrete path but the man was gone. Quickly he scanned both directions and there, a hundred and fifty metres away to the south, a dark figure walked briskly away.

Adam looked up to the balcony and saw Isabelle gingerly peering over the rail. He held his hand up, gesturing for her to wait there and then headed off in pursuit of the intruder. Isabelle nervously watched him disappear into the distance her face lined with stress, tears running freely down her cheeks.

Adam followed the man through the city streets, being careful to keep a good distance between them. He ducked and wove in and out of the passing pedestrian traffic quickly dodging the man’s furtive glances by seeking cover in alcoves and shop doorways. Confrontation in a public place could prove fruitless and he fully intended to get to the truth, which he felt, would have a much better chance of occurring in a private setting.

Three blocks from the studio, Carver turned into the front path of a two-story terrace. Adam ducked out of sight behind a well-placed jacaranda tree and waited for him to enter the house. Then, with his heart racing, Adam crept along the fence line and dashed up the driveway next to the terrace, stopping under the closest window.

The terrace was an old sandstone home, beautifully preserved with a quaint manicured garden at its front. The floors were obviously wooden and Adam could hear the creaking of footsteps inside. He gingerly edged up the sidewall and peaked over the window ledge. The lace curtain was drawn and several people were seated inside. It was an elegantly appointed sitting room with an exquisite Persian rug at its centre, surrounded by antique chairs and furniture. Carver entered the room, removed his jacket and draped it over the arm of one of the chairs, then seated himself. Adam strained to hear their voices.

‘Did you speak to her, Heinz?’ asked an old woman seated to his right.

‘She’s with that artist again,’ he replied in frustration. ‘She doesn’t know yet, I’m sure of it.’

Heinz leaned forward and cupped his large hands over his face.

‘You must tell her Heinz. It has to be now. She must assume her rightful place,’ the old lady insisted, her tone a little sharper. ‘If you won’t do it, I will,’ she said sternly.

Heinz turned indignantly and looked at the woman. ‘I said I would and I will,’ he replied, rising to his feet. He sighed, rather agitated, picked up his jacket and left the room abruptly.

‘Shit!’ mouthed Adam, rolling away from the wall and scurrying down the drive and to the safety of that nearby tree. Seconds later Carver alighted from the terrace entrance and leapt down the stairs and out onto the street. He glanced stealthily over his shoulder, then thankfully for Adam, left in the opposite direction.

Adam sighed with relief, then turned for home. He walked quickly, constantly looking over his shoulder thinking someone may have seen him, but no-one followed. As he strode the city streets he tried to assimilate the conversation he had overheard. ‘What doesn’t Isabelle know?’ he thought. ‘Rightful place...what the hell does that mean?’

Adam was confused, but at least it didn’t appear that Carver or anyone else wanted to hurt Isabelle. That was after all, good news. But what could he possibly report to her on his return? Adam decided that until the truth was revealed, he’d simply tell Isabelle that he’d lost Carver in the busy city streets. That would be best.

‘Perhaps I’m overreacting to everything,’ thought Adam. ‘They don’t seem to want to hurt her, maybe they have to tell her something about Blaskin’s estate or at least something equally harmless.’

Adam suddenly felt relieved and that maybe there was nothing to worry about. He may have read it all wrong.

Wearily he dragged himself up the stairwell to the studio and opened the door then closed it behind him and leant back against the cool metal, resting for just a moment. Isabelle was sitting nervously on the sofa, her big blue eyes like two saucers.

‘Did you talk to him?’ she asked impatiently. ‘What does he want?’

Adam walked over and crouched down in front of her, taking her slender hands in his. ‘I lost him, I’m sorry. He just disappeared in the crowd,’ he explained, pulling her toward him.

‘I’m sorry, but I’m sure it’s nothing. Perhaps you’re overreacting, you’ve already been through so much.’

Adam held her consolingly, trying to calm her down, but to no use. Suddenly he felt a cold reticence emanating from her every pore. Isabelle pulled away and wiped a tear from her eye, then looked deeply into Adam’s soulful eyes.

‘It’s not your life on the line, Adam. It’s mine!’ she said angrily. Isabelle relinquished her penetrating glare and stood up, pulling herself together. She quickly tied her hair back and grabbed her bag.

‘Isabelle. I didn’t mean...’

‘Not another word, please. I need some time alone... I’ll call you,’ she said sharply and stormed out of the studio.

As the thud of the door resounded in the open space, Adam fell back onto the sofa and rested his head against the padded arm. He felt a little guilty, but was sure that he’d made the right decision, having not told Isabelle what had happened. Perhaps some time on her own was the best for her. He felt she was safe and the sooner Carver spoke to her, the sooner they would all find out what this was all about.

Feeling more at ease with the situation, Adam’s mind automatically returned to his work. With his exhibition coming up, he couldn’t afford to waste any more time, so he changed into his painting clothes and set up a clean canvas.

It wasn’t long before the studio was once again filled with music and Adam filled with ideas, exuding his special gift and doing what he did best. He abounded with seemingly endless energy and focus, losing himself in his beloved art, and finding solace in the one thing that completed him. Time simply dissipated- the minutes, the hours and the days. For five days Adam did little else but paint. Ted and Jenny came to visit, but he didn’t mention what had happened, he was hoping that would be the last of it. Isabelle too had settled back into her usual routine and had somehow managed to put Carver at the back of her mind.

It was a Saturday morning and Isabelle, who had overslept, was semi-conscious and bleary-eyed when she heard a gentle knock on the door. Thinking it may have been Adam she quickly sprang to her feet and grabbed her silk dressing-gown from the end of the bed. She wrapped herself up and raced to the door, wanting to make up and put all the ill feeling behind them. Awkwardly and still a little drowsy, she unlatched and opened the door, wearing a broad smile. Her face instantly turned as white as a ghost. It was Carver. She gasped and went to slam the door in his face, but he quickly placed his huge foot in the doorway. Isabelle reeled in terror, unable to even collect her thoughts. Her body was trembling with fear and with her mouth open in shock, was unable to utter a sound.

‘I just want to talk to you, Isabelle,’ he said in a deep mellow tone. He stepped in and closed the door quietly behind him moving further into the apartment. Isabelle pulled her dressing-gown tightly around herself and with her arms protectively hunched up in front of her, edged back.

‘My name is Heinz Carver, I mean you no harm,’ he said, his voice calm and not the least bit threatening. Isabelle’s expression remained like stone, her body rigid. Carver saw her distress and took it slowly.

‘Ivan Blaskin, your stepfather, was a gifted man. I knew him for many years.’

Carver hesitated for a moment, obviously finding his task difficult. ‘There are things you don’t know, that you must know,’ he followed.

He moved over and quietly sat down on the arm of the couch. ‘Please sit down Isabelle, I want to explain,’ he said, gesturing with his large, rather bony hand. Isabelle’s breathing had calmed down a little but with eyes still firmly fixed on the man, she moved hesitantly over to an armchair and sat precariously at its edge.

‘What do you want from me?’ she snapped nervously.

‘Isabelle, you are not who you think you are.’

Isabelle looked at him with an impatient glare, her fear suddenly turning to anger.

‘You see Ivan had powers, he was an enigmatic man. He did things that most people wouldn’t understand. His work was so important to him, but he lost touch and now....’

‘Yes, he’s dead!’ said Isabelle, hatefully. ‘Six foot under, or perhaps much further than that. He got what he deserved. Stupid man!’

‘But Isabelle, you don’t understand. This is what I’m trying to tell you...Ivan was your real father.’

Isabelle stood up, her eyes wide with shock. But then suddenly her expression hardened as the truth swept through her mind. A deep seething anger was writhing through her body, begging expression.

‘You’re one of us, Isabelle. You have the gift,’ explained Carver. ‘You must have noticed things, the spark lives within you. Surely you’ve had visions, seen things happen before they did. A magic runs through your veins. You must accept it.’

Isabelle looked to the floor, her thoughts spinning uncontrollably in her head, casting her mind back to her childhood and all the strange events that had happened to her.

‘You’ve had blackouts, haven’t you? Where you can’t remember what has just happened? All these things are to be expected. Isabelle, you are special, very special.’

She stood there stunned, realising that she had indeed had these experiences. At the home she often got into trouble for acts she had no memory of and always knew when matron was about to enter her dorm. Often unexplained events would happen when she was angered, and afterwards she’d have no recollection at all, only knowing because one of the other girls would ask her about it.

Carver rose to his feet and moved closer to her. ‘Please Isabelle, you must listen. The temple of Asteroth is a part of you. It is time for you to learn its secrets; assume your rightful place. You are one of us,’ he finished, his hands extended out to her, inviting her to acknowledge the truth.

From a lost almost helpless expression, trying to fathom this devastating revelation, Isabelle suddenly stood upright, her face as cold as a winter chill.

‘You fool,’ she murmured, the hatred in her eyes unimaginable and unexpected.

Downstairs in the apartment foyer, the janitor had just mopped the marble tiles. They were now spotlessly clean, the smooth slightly wet surface, glistening under the stream of morning light coming through the glass frontage.

Suddenly from up above there was an explosion, pieces of wood splinters spraying in all directions, out into the stairwell. The janitor flinched and looked up to see a large man topple over the railing above and spin uncontrollably down through the open space, landing with a sickly thud on the hard marble floor next to him. In complete shock he fell backwards, collecting the mop and bucket and sending dark grey sudsy water across the clean white floor.

Sitting on his rump against the wall, with his eyes bulging, the janitor stared helplessly at Carvers vacant, lifeless face, blood pooling under his head and creeping outwardly across the polished floor.

Suddenly faces began to appear from the ascending railings above. Screams and frantic muffled voices echoed through the stairwell as the apartment building became alive with panic. Meanwhile upstairs, Isabelle sat quietly on her couch, looking pensively out into the morning sky.

Within fifteen minutes the foyer was filled with police officers, photographers, the press and horrified tenants. Carver’s body lay as it had landed but was now loosely covered with a blanket. Isabelle remained seated on the couch, sobbing into a handkerchief, being consoled by a female police officer. Two men stood not far from them, finishing off their notes from the interview.

On the street outside a crowd gathered and Adam, having decided to see if Isabelle was all right after their tiff, approached the apartment. Pushing his way through the crowd with his heart pounding in his chest, Adam apprehensively turned to one of the bystanders. ‘What’s happened here?’ he asked worriedly.

‘Some fella’s fallen down the stairs or something,’ answered one of the crowd. Adam forced his way through to the police tape-line and shouted to one of the officers.

‘I’ve got family here, can I make sure they’re all right?’

The officer nodded and lifted the tape. Adam raced into the building and up the stairs, looking fleetingly to the covered body on the floor. There were police everywhere and as he alighted at the top of the first flight he saw Isabelle’s door was torn to shreds. ‘Shit!’ he cried and burst into the flat. All eyes turned to Adam.

‘God, are you OK?’ he said, rushing over to Isabelle. She turned toward him and as he crouched down, lunged into his arms.

‘He tried to kill me Adam. He tried to kill me!’ she cried, weeping uncontrollably and shaking like a frightened child. Adam held her tightly, trying to calm her down.

‘I can’t believe it,’ he replied, unable to imagine it, not after what he had heard.

Suddenly the image of Isabelle lying down there under a blanket plagued his conscience, realising that he’d foolishly jumped to conclusions and it could well have been her.

They clung to each other for several minutes before one of the plain-clothed officers approached. Adam looked up, his face revealing stress.

‘Got a minute?’ the man asked calmly.

‘Yeah, sure,’ replied Adam, resting Isabelle on the couch and stepping over to join both officers.

‘You know something about this, son?’enquired the taller of the two.

‘I do,’ Adam replied. ‘At least I think I do,’ he added, unsure about how to even begin to explain. Then with some hesitancy, he tried.

‘I believe this man wanted to hurt Isabelle. I’m not exactly sure why. It’s a long story.’

‘Do you know the man?’ asked the other detective studying Adam’s rather bewildered expression.

‘Not really, but his name is Heinz Carver.’

Both detectives looked at each other with more than a little suspicion in their eyes, then turned back to Adam.

‘I think you better come down to the station with us. We need to get to the bottom of this.’

Adam looked worriedly toward Isabelle.

‘She’ll be OK here. The officer will stay with her,’ said the taller of the two, gesturing toward the door. ‘I’m Senior Detective Janson, this is my partner, Detective Simons. We won’t keep you long.’

Adam smiled furtively at Isabelle and followed the detectives outside. The crowd had grown even bigger in the street, with people jostling to get a better look inside, flashlights flashing and a half-dozen police trying to keep everything together. Adam and the two detectives made their way to a police car, with several reporters and photographers in hot pursuit. They quickly left with a few bursts of the siren to clear the encroaching press, and then with a squeal of tyres they sped from the scene and headed down town.

Adam sat perspiring in the back seat, feeling rather odd, like being in a TV show, not real life. But there he was, sitting in the back of a police car heading down to the station. It all seemed surreal.

On reaching the station, which happened to be the main city station, Adam was quickly taken upstairs to the interrogation rooms. The place was alive with activity, incoming suspects, handcuffed and escorted, outgoing suspects released on bail; police, lawyers, reporters and citizens going about their business ardently, the rumbling of collective voices almost deafening.

Adam was led into a small square cubical which contained only a table and two chairs. It smelt mildly of body odour and stale cigarettes.

‘Can I get you a coffee?’ asked Janson, trying to be congenial. Adam shook his head wanting only to get this over with. Janson looked up and nodded to Simons, who left to get them both a hot brew. On his return Adam, not sure if his explanation would make any sense to them, began to relay the story as meticulously as he could. As he explained all the strange happenings, the two men made numerous notes and asked many questions, not reacting at all to this unlikely string of events.

‘You haven’t known Isabelle for long, have you?’ enquired Janson, fishing.

‘Well no, I suppose not. What are you getting at?’

‘She’s only a small woman, wouldn’t you say?’ asked Simons, continuing Janson’s train of thought. Adam looked up a little confused, while Janson leaned forward over the desk toward him.

‘She wrestled a six-foot man, who was intent on killing her, right through a solid wood door, over a railing and to his death on the hard floor below. Is that how you see it, Sir?’ asked Janson, intently studying his response. Adam couldn’t answer the question, how could he? What possible explanation could there be?

Adam sat there for a moment, thoughtfully looking down at the table, trying to understand what could have happened, but coming up with nothing.

Twenty minutes later, having not resolved anything, the detectives, satisfied that Adam was just as confused as they- suspended the interview. They simply thanked him for his co-operation, and said that they may be in touch with him later.

Adam refused a police car-ride back and caught a cab instead, feeling like a zombie. He sat quietly in the back while the cabby chattered away endlessly, Adam not hearing a single word. He was busily trying to piece things together, but nothing was making sense. How could he have been so wrong about Carver? He’d seemed so harmless, not violent, and Isabelle? She’s not capable of such a physical feat. It was all just incomprehensible.

On Adam’s return to the flat, everything had just about returned to normal, with only a few people milling about the foyer. Carver’s body was gone, the marble floor revealing nothing of what had taken place. As Adam approached the door to the apartment, the policewoman that had stayed with Isabelle was just leaving.

‘Take care of her; she’s had quite a fright,’ she said to Adam as she passed. He closed the door and found Isabelle still sitting on the couch, red-eyed and exhausted. He sat down next to her and took her hand.

‘It’s over now, it’s finally over,’ he said, relieved. Isabelle took Adam’s face between her hands and drew him closer, kissing him gently on the cheek.

‘Thank you,’ she whispered gratefully. Adam looked into her soft blue eyes and kissed her tenderly on the lips.

‘I was so worried when I saw all those police cars and I...’

‘Shh!’ Isabelle interrupted, pulling Adam forcefully against her body and kissing him passionately. He immediately aroused and was swept away by her impassioned advance. She ran her fingers ever so gently and sensually all over his body and his body responded- the rush of raw emotion wrenching him from reality.

Suddenly he drew back, thinking how absurd this was. A few hours ago Isabelle was faced with death, what is she doing? He looked deeply into her eyes, questioning her passionate response. But she ignored his confusion and placed her delicate hand on his thigh, slowly but gently running it up until she reached its end, clutching none too gently, his now engorged genitalia.

Adam closed his eyes and tilted his head back in submission as she took him, moulding him like pliable dough. The exhilaration was sweet and her touch was gentle but firm, taking him second by second upward into a cloud of sensual bliss.

Then, as Adam groaned with sheer pleasure, she abruptly stopped and stood up, looking down on his rather vulnerable, half-cognizant state of being.

‘Come on,’ she said with a most controlled smile. Adam looked up a little confused. A strange guilt suddenly struck him and again he felt this encounter inappropriate.

With this feeling temporarily at the forefront of his mind, he stood up with all intentions of hedging this unexpected and ill-timed opportunity. But as he looked into her seductive eyes and with her hand outstretched toward him, he felt powerless and followed her to the bedroom.

Adam shut the door and Isabelle, who was standing in front of the window, let her gown fall from her shoulders and to the floor. Adam felt glued to the spot, unable to move- the primeval stirring within him now reaching fever pitch. She slowly reached up and pulled the shoestring straps of her silk lingerie off her shoulder and it gently slid from her body, folding elegantly on the floor around her feet.

Her body was magnificent, slender but rounded and evenly tanned. Her young skin was so taught and conditioned that her pert breasts sat like ripe succulent fruit, beautifully shaped and tantalising. She turned slightly to the side, her outline silhouetted by the filtered light from the window. She then gently pulled down the blind to dim the light.

She was so beautiful, the line of her breasts and the curve of her stomach gently receding down into dark recesses, imbued with a halo of sunlight from outside, was more than Adam could bear. He quickly removed his clothing, his mind under an avalanche of desire, his heart throbbing incessantly in his chest. Adam’s reservations and any other considerations were now buried so deeply within him, that he had not an inkling of anything but what was in front of him.

Adam was transfixed with Isabelle’s beauty and as both met at the centre of the bed, even their souls felt as though they were intertwined. As their bodies fused and the sheer ecstasy of flesh against flesh swept them both away, they sunk slowly into the covers, abandoning the world and the complications of mortal life.


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