Observing Murder – A Short Story Part 1
My best friend, when I was a young child, was a girl called Laurie. I can’t tell you what she looked like as I never saw her face I was only aware of some indistinct shape and, of course, her voice.
It was some years before I realised that my other friends didn’t have a friend like Laurie. Perhaps that should have freaked me out but it didn’t – it rather freaked my friends out though, and I soon learned not to mention her. Laurie was clever and wise, she told me things that I didn’t know, and often foretold what would happen in the near future. She was always right. Once I realised that my friends didn’t have this sort of friend with them I realised I had a huge advantage – Laurie could keep me informed and, more than that, could help me with my school work. This was important to me at the time because I always wanted to be and sound clever – Laurie was both.
Unfortunately, Laurie didn’t agree with me – her role, she told me, was to protect me not to make me someone I was not. I noticed that she wasn’t around me so often after that, though she was still there when important things happened. She was there, for instance, when a lorry I hadn’t seen or heard was about to sweep round the corner of the road I was intending to cross. She screamed at me to stand still. I did. The lorry went passed and I was still standing on the pavement edge. She was there one day when we were on a family holiday and had gone to visit my paternal grandparents. She told me to give my grandmother an extra special hug as I wouldn’t see her again. I thought she was nuts as we were due to visit them again the next day, so just gave my grandmother the normal type of hug – you know the one – ‘bye grannie, see you tomorrow’, quick hug and out the door. She died that night. I was bereft. More than that, I was mad at myself for not listening to Laurie – for goodness sake, she was ALWAYS right
As I went through my teenage years I was so busy growing up and having fun that I forgot she existed really. I did well at school, did the whole ‘A’ level thing and went to university where I stayed until I could no longer claim I was a student – having gained my doctorate. Then it was time to find a job and become an adult – duh! No, not the adult bit, I was looking forward to the exquisite joy of independence, but the thought of working, the very thing that would enable me to actually be independent, was something that filled me with dread. What on earth was I suited to do? I really had no idea – I’d spent my life thinking and reading and wanted to carry on doing exactly that, but I knew I couldn’t.
So, once I had packed my books, files, computer, clothes, everything I owned basically, I moved back to my family home where my parents spoiled me for a little while. This could not go on though, I really couldn’t live off their money without bringing in at least something myself. It worried me that I had no real idea of what I wanted to do or be. Everyone else seemed to have found themselves some sort of career but nothing appealed to me.
I knew I was a bit weird – well a lot weird actually, I seemed to worry people with the questions I asked and the answers I gave to the questions I was asked. I was open and forthright, saying what I thought and then wishing I hadn’t when people turned away and started talking to someone else. But I had to speak my mind, I had to tell the truth as I saw it because I knew it was the truth. It was no good telling someone a lie, I simply couldn’t do that, especially to my parents. But I inevitably found myself saying things they didn’t really want to hear until, one evening, I realised I had to move away to save my parents from the truths I had to tell, and myself from having to see the hurt in their eyes which I unwittingly caused them, but I still had no idea of where to go or what I wanted to do.
That night I had a vivid dream. I found myself standing in a wide open space, somewhere I didn’t recognise, and some yards in front of me I saw a man standing over a young woman who was wearing a deep blue silk evening dress, of calf length, and beautifully made. A matching scarf was tied round her throat – right round her throat – with the tie at the front, and the man was pulling on the two ends of the tied scarf strangling the life out of the woman. She was a very pretty woman, blonde hair gathered into a beautiful loose style at the back and pinned with what looked like pearl ended pins, and her face was carefully made up. On the third finger of her right hand, the hand that was desperately trying to push the man away whilst the other hand was working to loosen the ever tightening knot, she wore a breath-taking sapphire ring. I knew instinctively that it was an important piece of jewellery, made sometime in the 1920s and worth a pretty penny. I looked down at the woman’s feet, which were clad in old fashioned shoes, shoes which seemed to match the dress in colour and style.
How did I know this was a dream? That’s easy to answer – Laurie was inside my head telling me not to worry, that my job was to observe, that I couldn’t help as I wasn’t really there. She was telling me to carefully memorise every detail as I would need to pass these onto the police. I looked again and saw an old fashioned evening purse, art deco styled and matching the dress. There was a silver watch on her left arm, the stylish dial reading 2.45. Looking at her left hand I could see no ring on her third finger so she was (probably) single. She wore an intricately patterned pendant around her neck which I could just see as I stepped over closer to look, and something in her hair which I realised was what we would call a fascinator, but it wasn’t one of those airy fairy confections. It was made of white metal (silver?) and glinted as the light caught the stones which were set within the metal. I then looked at the man who was obviously taking the life of this exquisitely dressed young woman. He was dark haired, with a neatly trimmed moustache, the kind that sits above the lips and looks as though it’s hitching a ride. He was elegantly dressed, there is no other way to describe this, wearing a beautifully cut evening suit. The jacket had coat tails which ended in points, he was wearing a waistcoat with a beautiful fob watch (silver again I guessed), and down at his right side he had laid a top hat, one of those carefully brushed, glossy velvet ones which only wealthy people could carry off. I also spotted a silver topped cane, the top embossed with some sort of flowery pattern. ‘Look closer’, said Laurie in my head. I looked closer. The silver capping had what looked like a thistle engraved on the top with the rest of it engraved with curlicues and some letters along the bottom of the silver grip which read O.A.J. 1911. I looked again at the man and then at the third finger of his left hand. He was wearing a wedding ring.
I looked up to try and get some idea of where this awful event was taking place. I saw what I presumed was a church in the distance and, closer, a large building which had its name carved above some steps which appeared to lead downwards – Kit Cat Club – with other large buildings either side and opposite – none of which I recognised. It was a wide street and it puzzled me as to why there was no-one else about. This appeared to be a main road, certainly the buildings I could see suggested at least a large town, if not a city. I couldn’t see any cars parked anywhere and no street signs to give me any clues as to the area of the country I was in. I could see we were in Britain because of the buildings I could see but, other than that, there was nothing to give me any further clues. ‘Look further afield’ came the voice from Laurie. I obeyed her, why would I not? In my dream I walked down the road to where the road split into two. Looking down this road I could see I was in a major city – London I assumed. I looked about me to see if I could a name plate for the road I was on, there was nothing immediately obvious so I turned back to see the now dead woman on the ground and saw, rather than heard, the man pick up his top hat and cane and run off in the opposite direction, disappearing around the side of another property. I followed, there was nothing that could be done for the woman by me – I was dreaming after all – until I got to where he had disappeared. It was a small lane, or ginnel depending on where you’re from, which ran down beside and behind the front of the buildings on either side. I went down it to see where it led but came up against a five foot high wall which I didn’t attempt to get over. I didn’t know how to get over it to be honest.
Returning to the scene of the crime I was surprised to find a huge crowd of people crushing around the body. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, and I realised I had heard nothing but Laurie’s voice the whole time. I could, however, see how they were dressed – that is, extremely smartly. Similarly, in fact, to the way the dead woman and her killer were dressed. In the distance I could see that old-fashioned cars and horse drawn carriages had arrived, presumably to carry the people I could see home again after their evening’s entertainment. I was more curious than ever. Just what on earth was I witnessing? Was it real? Did it really happen? Why was everyone dressed in period costume (the period being the 1920s)? I really needed to find something which would confirm what the event was, where I was, what date it was and who it was I had seen. ‘Look to the steps’ came the voice in my head. I turned obediently. The steps leading down to the club were full of people still streaming up on their way out onto open air, but there were also a couple of leaflets lying on one of the steps. I went to have a look, bending down to read the writing I could see there. The leaflet was, luckily, face side up with its date clearly visible. It read, 27th July, 1926. The name of the building was given and the name of what I presumed to be a band. Before I had the chance to commit the name to memory my focus was diverted as I became aware of a most unpleasant squeezing sensation created by a man’s leg walking straight through my body. Now, I have to tell you, this really did freak me out, so much so that the next thing I was aware of was waking up in my room with the sweats.
Outside it was breaking dawn, the birds were singing their hearts out in my parents’ garden, and I was sitting on my bed hugging myself as my heart thumped rapidly – too rapidly, I thought, to be healthy. I got up, found a pen and my notebook and wrote down everything I could about the dream I had had. It had been far too real to be a figment of my imagination and I was desperate to find out more if possible. As quietly as I could I made my way downstairs to the room I used as a study and switched on my laptop. God bless the internet, I thought as I opened up my search engine. I wasn’t sure where to start to be honest, the clues I had come across in my dream didn’t really add up to very much in reality. I still had no idea where the murder had taken place, and no idea who had been murdered, or who had done the deed. I typed in ‘Kit Cat Club’ and waited for any hits to be listed. Of course! I remembered what I should have realised when I first saw the sign, The Kit Cat Club was a famous haunt of wealthy socialites in London during the later 1920s. By that time the younger adult generation wanted to have fun, forget about the war their elders had lived through, forget the horror and unbelievable sadness occasioned by the loss of so many young men and live every day as though it may be their last. The murder I had seemed to witness, if indeed it actually happened, would have made the newspapers, there was no way it would not have been reported, so that is where I would start.