Athena couldn’t believe what she heard. “You’re making fun of me again. You can’t know what happened to him. You didn’t even inspect the body.” Their scenic walk converged to an isolated path. A park sign indicated the direction and distance towards the main gate.
“I’m not teasing you. He died from drugs – opioid and alcohol poisoning. Watch the news tonight,” he said.
Athena rolled her eyes. “Wow, you actually sound so convinced. As if you’ve seen him with your own eyes.”
For a moment, Curtis was quiet. He appear to be thinking to himself, contemplating his next answer. “I have,” he said plainly.
His jokes are getting weirder by the minute. “Right. Next you’re going to tell me that you killed the guy.” she attempted to brush off his words.
Again, he took a moment to brood before he shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not entirely blameless.”
He answered so naturally, so simply that Athena stopped in her tracks and just looked at him. A soft breeze rustled the trees, attempting to fill the void between them. She waited for him to break into a cheeky grin and laugh at her gullibility. It never came.
“If this is a joke, it’s not funny,” she finally said.
“I’m dead serious.”
“What do you mean by you’re not entirely blameless? You sound like you were involved in his death!”
“Not directly. Not enough to amount to anything substantial to tie me to the case, if that’s what you’re asking.”
The playful atmosphere between them had all but disappeared. They stood staring at each other — his eyes boring into hers. She must have mistaken the warm eyes from earlier; they were now two bottomless pits of darkness.
Athena’s thoughts were firing all over the place. For one, she wanted desperately to believe he was making fun of her, otherwise the alternative was that her new friend – at least it seemed they were going to be, was a murderer or an accomplice. Also, how could a person who saved her from harm one day, take away someone else’s life next? That doesn’t making sense at all! Yet, if he was speaking the truth, then…
How eerily empty and secluded the area was. Was this all planned? Was she lured to this neglected area with tall overgrown grass and untrimmed hedges to have Curtis ‘tie loose ends’? His expression bore no emotion, no hint to what he planned to do to her. The cluster of food stalls weren’t too far away, but she was unsure if she could outrun him. He’s so close – can she make out a scream in time before he stifled her as he did before?
And then he spoke, in a deep, solemn tone. “You need to leave. Now. Magnolia Promenade will be swarming with cops so that district’s fine; but I don’t ever want to see you in Mirage Park or Canton. Stay away and keep to the crowds. If you ever see me again, don’t talk to me, don’t come near me. Today never happened. You got me?”
“… identified as 38-year-old Hubert Bohr was found dead of a suspected drug overdose in Magnolia Promenade. Police are awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination to determine whether the death should be treated as suspicious. Detective Jules Ellis said authorities were notified by an unknown caller who claims to have seen the man act strangely and enter the alley. At present, the caller’s identity and whereabouts are unknown-”
She switched off the television. The news report confirmed that Curtis was telling the truth, but something still doesn’t add up.
If he was the murderer or accomplice, setting Athena free would mean leaving evidence behind. She was an eyewitness who could testify that he was at the crime scene and had known the cause of death even before it was reported.
When he threatened her to leave, he had cared for her safety. Keep to crowds? Don’t set foot in Canton? Why would he do that? Was it a trap? Or was he caring for her?
Ugh, she was spinning in circles without getting any closer to an answer.
She didn’t know if she should turn him in. She wasn’t entirely convinced that he’s guilty. Maybe the right thing to do was give herself time to think it through. But each time, her mind would wander first to the pleasant afternoon they had, followed by his final words to her. A lump would form in her throat as she felt the familiar sting of rejection that had plagued her all her life, and her mind would spiral out of control into her darkest memories.
- If you know someone in a troubled space, no matter how small, always refer them to support. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites (AUS)