The police cordoned off our house as a crime scene. We booked into a motel near the airport, not that we could afford it. Dad stood outside smoking and staring at traffic. Mum sat inside, looking at TV, but not particularly taking anything in. I was restless. I never did get to school today. Mum wrote me an absentee letter to give to the deputy headmaster tomorrow morning, explaining that there’d been a sudden “bereavement” in the family. It was all a terrible shock. It was near enough to the truth.
I did what I’ve always done when things get too much. I wrote. I wrote all evening. There was nothing else for it. Nothing on TV held my interest. Everything seemed garish and stupid and loud. In my mind all I could see was the dead man’s face, the texture of his skin, his part-closed eyes, the angle of his slump against my door. Again, I wondered how it could all have happened without my noticing a thing? Why, of all the houses on our street, in our suburb, in our area, did this man choose our house? Was the killer following him, and so knew where to find him? Was it somehow random? Could it have been any house, so why not ours? Or had we been selected? I didn’t know which was worse.
What had the killer been searching for? That was another weird thing. That was something that made me think the choice of our house, and my room, was deliberate. The killer seemed to believe I had something stashed away in my room. Maybe that’s why the victim was in there, too. Maybe that’s what they were both doing there. Could they have been a team, only it went sour somehow, and one turned on the other?
I can’t remember anything the dead man was wearing–but I remember the exact texture of his skin. I remember that smell. I can still smell it on me, and in my nose. Since we’ve been here at the motel I’ve had two very thorough scrubbing-type showers, and I can still smell it on me. Mum says I reek of it. She says we all do, but me especially.
She’s wondering what we’re going to do about tea tonight. Dad unhelpfully says he’s not hungry. He’s thinking of heading out to see a couple of mates. “Fine,” Mum says. “Whatever you say, Phil.”