The media sources were full of in depth reporting with the detailed minutiae that only an anal retentive spectator could love. It was a story that I usually call beating a dead horse at its own game. Perhaps I found the profaneness of the reporting simply too objectionable. Of course one man’s profane reporting is another man’s Pulitzer Prize. Go figure. But there were the gory details. Mr Martin Lashwell was stabbed to death in Little Pakistan in Birmingham. He was forty three years of age, divorced for the past three years, and had two children who resided with his ex wife. Police are baffled by his death as he was not known to frequent the backstreet area where his body was found. Most of his clothing had been removed and his wallet was missing. The corner had made the identificat of a badly mutilated body through dental records. Services were to be held in Basingstoke next Wednesday. Not much of an epitaph for a man.
I suppose I shall go round to the services and see the man off. He was my neighbor, so to speak, we lived in the same apartment complex, different floors and different sides of the building. We had a passing acquaintance if one could call it that. I was washing my car one Saturday afternoon and Mr Lashwell asked if I could drive him and a friend to the train station about five that evening. Truth is, I had seem him several times walking to what I assumed was work and so I thought nothing of his request. And several times we had passed in the hallway entrance exchanging the usual greetings apartment dwellers usually say. My opinion of him is that he was a pleasant chap.
Lashwell showed up at my door just before five with a dark haired, dark eyed, and tanned complexion woman. She wore a scarf over her head as is the fashion of many women when the winds are gusting about. Her clothing said that she was a modest woman, a mid length skirt, low heeled pumps, bulky sweater, minimum of makeup and just a touch of perfume. The eyes gave her away. I had seen that look before, almost a wild look if you like. Perhaps it was the intensity of her stare and the nervous movements of her body that completed that impression. Also she was Lashwell’s junior by twenty years if a day. Lashwell had a small overnight case in his hand but I wasn’t sure if it was his or hers. “Well, as you can see we’re ready. Decent of you, old chap. I do hate to impose but taxis are a bit too extravagant.”
“Let me put on my coat and I’ll be right with you.” As we walked down the stairs to the car park he continued. “We’re taking the train to Brighton. Bit of a holiday, you know. Jenna’s never been so it should all be a lark.” I kept my comments to myself while the woman merely smiled. When we reached the station he got out first and helped her out. Then he reached back in and pulled the over night bag out. “Thanks awfully old boy. You’ve been a life saver.” He closed the door and I headed back to my apartment.
The next couple of weeks I noticed her in the hallway twice but I couldn’t tell if she was living with him. Lashwell had one of the small units, just an alcove for the bed and a bare sitting room with a kitchenette. Bachelor’s quarters is what that amounted to. Mrs Bagley stopped me twice during that next month to complain of Lashwell’s ungentlemanly like conduct. He was giving the complex a bad name carousing around with that woman. “I know for a fact that woman stays over several nights a week. She’s a foreigner too! I bet she comes from the middle east. I bet she does. They both leave together in the morning. He goes to work and she goes to the train station.”
“Yes, I suppose it might be true, Mrs Bagley. I haven’t considered that thought. I suppose if they want me to know their business they’ll tell me. Good day Mrs Bagley.” The time passed and we were close to the Christmas holidays. I was getting packed for a trip to Paris. Never go to Paris during a holiday week, the crowds will eat you alive. I always go the week before so I can do a little shopping and take in the Parisian style of Christmas holiday celebration. Suddenly I realized that I needs a new tube of toothpaste. So I hopped down to Boots to buy a tube and maybe a new tooth brush when I ran into Lashwell. “Say, old bean, I meant to thank you for the lift that last month. Jenna and I had a lovely time. Say, why don’t you come along with me and have a drink. I owe you one.”
“No thanks, I have a little more packing to do.” He cut me off.
“No, no, I insist. I always pay my debts.” He grabbed my arm and off we went to the Boars Head a few steps down the street. We walked up to the bar and he told the bartender, “Two whiskies, make them doubles.” I started to protest but he motioned to me to wait. We picked up our glasses and went to a booth. “I need to talk to someone and, well, there you were, standing in line at the register.” He took a sip and continued. I can’t drink at the apartment, Jenna won’t allow it. We’ve been married now for two weeks and I’m trying to get use to no alcohol in my home. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a good woman. She’s very passionate, very loving. But this will take some time for me to get use to all these changes. Her family is still upset about her marrying me, you know. But I don’t care, I love that woman and she loves me. Thank god they live in Birmingham somewhere or they’d be pounding down my door. Her brother is a real hot head, says he’ll kill me if I ever come to Birmingham.” He looked at his watch for a second. “Good lord, I’ve got to get going. Jenna always has supper on the table about now. Well, been good seeing you.” He downed the rest of his drink and left in a hurry.
I finished my drink and went back to my apartment. At first I didn’t think much about the two men who were standing around the building. One was thin and tall, the other was shorter and thickset. I didn’t recall either of the two living here. Oh well, got to finish the last of my packing. There’s a French couple I know in Paris and they always invite me to their home this time of year. I always pack a couple of toys for their two children and a couple bottles of vintage port for the adults. The next morning I called a taxis to take me to the station, I was catching the train to Paris out of Waterloo. As I walked down the stairs and to the waiting taxi I noticed the same two men on the sidewalk across the street. They were in an animated conversation with a woman who looked a lot like Jenna. I couldn’t mistake that face or those eyes. I got into the taxis and a few hours later I was in Paris. It was a very nice stay. We talked of old times, of children, and friends we both knew.
When I came back I didn’t see anything amiss, all looked well to me. But two days later Mrs Bagley came knocking on my door. “There’s something wrong. They’re both gone. Their door’s unlocked and the place looks a mess. Just an absolute mess.”
“Calm yourself, Mrs Bagley. Who are you talking about?”
“Mr Lashwell and that slut he married. That’s who. I knew her kind was no good, I just knew it.” About two weeks later the police detectives came around asking questions about Lashwell and his wife, Jenna. They didn’t say much but I asked one of them directly. “Did you find him in Birmingham?”
“Yes, how did you know? we never mentioned his death or where he was killed.”
“He told me his wife’s family lived there.”
“Do you know why he went to Birmingham?” The detective asked me.
“It was a proof of love.”