The door was locked.
What could she do? She did what she always did: she laughed. It came out as a pissed-off, ironic laugh; not the hardy-ha type.
The same old scenario. By now it felt familiar. The wrong boyfriend…well, that wasn’t quite right, the right boyfriend, but not the right type of boyfriend. The type of boyfriend who was a boy and a “could-be” friend but who preferred boys, and only girls as accessories.
It always started out right; picking up nice, cute, rough men in places in which she was usually only one of two or three women. Expensive jewellery and a not-so-subtle flash of big notes helped. She knew the type by now. Those few lined up at the bar who were there for what they could get.
“I’m a photographer…” It was her standard line. A business card. Purpleprint, 20 for ten dollars, ordered online. Swish, nicely laid out, convincing.
“Hello, Arnie?” she said, rattling the doorknob of his apartment, her phone squashed between her cheek and her shoulder. “Come on; I know you’re in there!” His phone decided it had recorded enough and disconnected. She went to the backdoor and rattled it, both hands on the doorknob. The door was locked.
Snapping pictures, urging Arnie to be rougher, passing him the amyl; no wonder she laughed. She loved the power, Arnie loved the violence, and the boyfriend…well, he’d laugh too, if he could have.
“Arnie! Open this fucking door!”
There was a body to be disposed of and Arnie was probably passed out on his bed, while she stood in the rain, shrieking out his name and kicking the door frame.
They’d argued about who would do it—tie the knot, that is—he’d left angrily, calling her a selfish bitch after she’d pushed him out of the way, kneeled on the unconscious boyfriend’s chest and then yanked the knot tight with both hands. The knot around his neck that secured the plastic bag in place; the bag which was over his head. In, out, in, out; she’d watched boyfriend’s breathing get slower and slower, until it was done. That’s the beauty of being a chemist. Her cocktail, all in one pill, gave the most intense sexual arousal, but at a deadly cost.
“Arnie?” she’d called, once the thrill had passed. His reply came from the street; the screech of tyres as his car roared out of her driveway.
Tonight’s boyfriend had given Arnie more than usual; he wasn’t one of the quiescent ones, he’d thrown Arnie onto his back and had scuttle-fucked him across the floor into the hallway. Neither she nor Arnie had protested.
“Arnie!” she yelled once more, and then grabbed the doorknob again. The door was locked. She laughed. It felt familiar…all too familiar.
I opened one eye cautiously.
The monitor showed my flight was still delayed.
I had a five hour stopover in Sydney and had used a vast quantity of my loyalty points to upgrade to business, merely so I could use the club lounge to stretch out in and get some sleep.
I was desperate to get home. The whole trip back from the UK had been fraught with delays. My overnight stop in Thailand had been aborted because of a typhoon; the plane diverted to Singapore and the airline reluctant to find an alternative arrangement for the night. Instead, I’d camped out in the old Changi terminal.
“You okay, mate?” Someone was shaking my shoulder.
“Fine thanks,” I said. “Just throwing up some z’s before my flight.”
“You might want this,” the man said, handing me a wad of paper serviettes.
“Ah, bugger,” I said. I’d been dribbling and the sleeve of my pale grey jacket was soaked.
“I do that too,” he said.
“What, fall asleep in airport lounges?”
“Nah, dribble on myself; usually on the train. Learned to put something over my lap, otherwise I can wake up to find it looks like I’ve pissed myself.”
I laughed, and sat up. “Jesus, I’m a mess.”
“You look just fine to me.”
I suppose there’s a moment when you snap out of hum-drum conversation into another awareness. This was one of those. He was one of those tall, lanky, half-shaven blokes who look like they’d be happier on the back of a horse than in business class on Qantas. I’d been single so long I’d forgotten how to dance. Not-so-subtle looks, testing the waters…
“Howard,” I said. “Howard Spring.”
“Jeffrey Smith.” He took my hand, shaking it with just the right amount of pressure. “What?” he asked, after a moment. “Have I got something on my face?”
I’d been flicking my gaze from his eyes to his lips. “Nah, but I think I’ve got egg on mine.”
He grinned. “Where you off to?”
“Me too. How about that!”
“Excuse me, sir. Is this yours?” The lounge attendant held up my wallet. “It was on the floor just behind you.”
“Thank you.” It was empty. My card, money, everything was gone. I fumbled in my jacket pockets. My passport was there.
“Someone’s nicked everything.”
“I didn’t see anyone about,” he replied. “But, hey, if we’re both going to Cairns, I’ll see you out, no worries.”
“Thanks, Jeffrey. I suppose I’d better go report my stuff’s been stolen.”
“Right-o,” he said, then gave me a small wave when I turned back to look at him over my shoulder.
Two days later, my cards arrived from Qantas in the mail.
Six months later, on the day he proposed to me, he admitted it was him who’d cleaned me out. He’d handed in my cards at the Qantas desk, saying he’d found them. He couldn’t think of any other way to get me in his car, and later on, into his life.