Lawrence swayed with the motion of the train, allowing the weight of his body to swing against the anchor point of both his hands on the overhead railing, knowing that the crush of people would stop him from swinging too far. He was thinking of everything, and nothing in particular, reflecting on Elouise's recent oddness, and the strange confrontation that had occurred with Damien the night before. He thought about Ben and how convinced he was that Damien was covering something up, and how he just couldn't see that it was true. Damien was clean these days, he wouldn't have had anything to do with it if there were drugs involved. Lawrence knew he had been at home when he got there, but that hadn't been until late on Sunday afternoon, and Damien had been leaving for work as Lawrence walked in. They hadn't talked really at all, but Damien had seemed his normal self - tired and a bit hung over still maybe, but Lawrence could hardly talk. He thought about Damien’s joking remark to Ben, about him being there, and Ben's reaction. He thought how strange it was that everyone around him had seemed to be acting so oddly recently, which made him think of Elouise. She hadn't turned up for two days straight now, and no one had heard anything from her until late this morning, when she had called to apply for immediate leave. When she had last been in which had been on Wednesday, she had looked somehow shell-shocked, but Lawrence still felt way too intimidated by her to ask her if she was all right. Instead, he had offered her a coffee, which to his surprise she had accepted with a smile and a word of thanks. She had offered no explanation to him, but she owed him none, and the day had gone on as normal, except that she had been somehow less harsh, a bit more relaxed and forgiving than normal, yet far from happy, Lawrence thought. But since then, she seemed to have dropped into the ether somehow, which was weird.
As the train rolled on through the suburbs, trees and housing developments whizzing past the grimy windows, Lawrence wondered about the dead girl, Ariana. Ben had said she was a writer, although the pen name he told him she had used was not familiar to Lawrence. Lawrence wondered what kind of books she had written, what stories she had had to tell the world, what kind of artistic talent the world had lost. He wondered what had happened that night after the little group left the party. Damien's story rung true to Lawrence, but he wondered what had happened after Damien left them at the station, whether they had taken the drugs, if it was a wilful murder, or a good time gone horribly wrong.
The train came to a stop at Redton and Lawrence let go of the hand railings above his head, grabbed his briefcase from where it stood between his ankles and elbowed his way to the doors, along with the rest of the crowd alighting at this station. He moved with the tidal flow of commuters towards the exit, not able to resist looking over his shoulder to the long grass at the opposite end of the station where they had found her body. The crowd thinned as he left the station and people dispersed to the car park, to the loading zone to wait for their lifts, or into the various roads leading away from the station to walk back to wherever they came from. Lawrence walked wearily up Station Road towards the flat that he shared with Damien, and was soon climbing the stairs to home. He opened the door, walked in and dropped his briefcase on the couch. Damien didn't make an appearance, and Lawrence could hear the shower running in the bathroom as he walked into the kitchen to find a drink. He poured himself bourbon and was walking with it back into the lounge room to settle in front of the television for a bit, when he heard a knock on the door. He looked up, frowning, then put the drink down on the coffee table and walked over.
"Who is it?" he called as he unlocked the door, ready to pull it open.
"Police." a deadpan voice answered.
Lawrence froze, a shiver of fear running through him and turning his knees to jelly. He fumbled, trying to get the door open with suddenly clumsy fingers, and eventually the door released and swung open to reveal two cops, one old and thick around the waist, the other young and tall. The older one held up a badge as Lawrence gaped at him. "Senior Constable John Mitchell." he introduced himself, then indicating the young guy beside him with a jab of his thumb, "Constable Michael Platt."
Lawrence's voice had left him. He settled for nodding dumbly.
"We're looking for Damien Everett,"
Lawrence nodded again, tried to work out what was required of him, and eventually stammered, "He's ... he's in the shower. Uh. Yeah, in the shower." he pointed with his left hand over his right shoulder, the right hand still holding on to the door as though it were the only thing keeping him upright.
Megan was exhausted, in pain and feeling somewhat like she had been run over by a fully loaded truck. She hardly noticed though, because there were other things competing for her attention. The main thing, of course, was the small infant screaming at her bedside, the other thing was trying to work out how to get said infant and swollen, leaking nipple attached to one another without causing excruciating pain, a feat she had not yet managed with any success. She swung her legs over the side of the high hospital bed, and, cooing and humming in an effort to soothe the hungry child, she slipped both hands underneath the tiny arched back. She waited a second, as the nurses had taught her, and using one hand to support her head and the other to lift her out of the plastic sided cot, she lifted her daughter and gently repositioned her in the crook of her right arm. She then used her free arm to lift her nightie, and unclipped the maternity bra. A bunch of damp tissue fell out and she ignored them - she was too new to this to even contemplate trying to pick them up. Following the nurses instructions to the letter Megan pointed her nipple at her daughter's wide open mouth. Megan was struck yet again at the resemblance to a baby bird, and suppressed a chuckle, feeling that laughing at her offspring only hours after she was born was slightly taboo, somehow. The baby latched on and Megan breathed a sigh of relief as she realised that everything seemed to have worked this time - there was no pain. She smiled down at her new baby daughter, her heart swelling with pride at her own accomplishments and, for the first time, love for the newborn. She hadn't realised that she wouldn't fall in love with her daughter instantly, there was too much going on, and too much to learn so quickly that there hadn't been the time so just sit and look at the tiny thing she had produced. But now she was able to just sit, and look. She used her free hand to very lightly brush the downy dark hair, and had a chance to watch the fontanelle pulsing with life. She tightened her hold slightly, in a half hug, and the baby threw her free arm out in protest, which made Megan smile. As she loosened her grip a bit the little hand came back down to rest on Megan's exposed breast, and Megan thought her heart was going to burst with the joy of it all.
Dalton burst through the door then, followed closely by a nurse, and Megan looked up, shaken out of her dreamy reverie. Dalton's face looked suddenly concerned and he went immediately to Megan's side, "Is everything OK, honey? You're upset."
"Upset?" Megan said confused, and Dalton lifted a hand to her cheek. It was only when he showed her the wet drops on his forefinger that she realised she had been crying, and she smiled at the misunderstanding and shook her head. "I'm fine, Tony, honestly. I was just thinking how happy I am, and how much in love I am with this little creature we made." She lifted her shoulder slightly in a shrug, to indicate the child happily feeding in the crook of her arm, and Dalton switched his focus to the baby also. Mimicking her earlier gesture brushing his big hands along the tiny head, he smiled also, seemingly lost for words.
The nurse abruptly moved from the chart where she had been filling in observations, and over to the bed where the new family sat.
"How are you Mrs. Richmond?" she said officiously.
"Well, thank you." Megan answered, just as formally, before breaking into a grin, "I think I'm getting the knack of this finally!"
The nurse bent to inspect the baby's attachment and nodded her head approvingly, "Well done, there's no discomfort?"
"None at all." Megan answered happily, and seemingly satisfied, the nurse made a few final marks in the chart and moved on to the next room in the ward.
Megan returned her attention to her husband, whose gaze was firmly fixed on the baby. The child was still sucking quite happily, but her eyelids were drooping, and Megan thought she would be asleep any minute. Looking back up into Dalton's face she asked what he had been up to while she and the baby had been sleeping off the rigours of the birth. It turned out that he had made a mad dash over to the public hospital to collect Walter's things and, in the process, had been given a note that he had written after their visit the night before.
"What did it say?" Megan said, curious.
"Well, that's the interesting thing," Dalton said, "You're not going to believe this, but it was a will."
Megan snapped her head up and looked him in the eye, "A will? He wrote a new will in the hospital?"
"Yes. Apparently he had a doctor and a nurse witness it. That was when he put us down officially as next of kin also."
"So what does it say?" Megan pressed.
Dalton produced a single piece of paper from his breast pocket, unfolded it and smoothed it out on his knee. It was the same stationery that Megan had used to write Ariana Mather's name on the night before, and, it seemed, he had used the same scratchy cheap pen to cover the page with spidery, cursive handwriting.
"I can't read it, Tony, what does it say?" she said impatiently.
Dalton took a deep breath, choosing his words carefully, and then let it out in a rush, "He left us everything. Well, not us, the baby." he pointed at the child in Megan's arms, and watched as Megan's eyebrows shot up, "What's everything consist of I wonder?" she mused
"Well, that's not exactly spelt out here, but as far as I can tell, it's a house, a train set and an undisclosed amount in a bank account. All to go into trust for the daughter of Megan and Dalton Richmond, with a monthly stipend to be paid until the child reaches 18, at which time she may have full and unfettered access."
"The daughter?" Megan said, "How did he ..."
Dalton shook his head, "I have no idea."
Megan looked down at the little girl that Walter had somehow pre-empted - she was asleep, pupils moving slowly beneath her translucent lids, fontanelle pulsing gently and a little dribble of milk running down her chin.
Senior Constable Mitchell was sitting across from Damien in the stark interview room, staring at him with an interrogator's smile. Damien returned it with a steely glare.
"How did you kill her, Damien?" Mitchell asked calmly.
"Who?" Damien responded, archly.
"You know who I mean."
"No. I don't know who you mean. I didn't kill anybody."
The police officer didn't respond, choosing to simply stare at him. Damien wasn't fooled, and he waited out the silence. The two stared at each other across the table in a crazy contest where the first person to speak lost the game. Damien was determined, but eventually the game was declared no-contest, because the door opened and Detective Sergeant David Ward walked in. Ward looked from one to the other, sensing the challenge that lay in the air like fog. He pulled one of the plastic chairs away from the table, reversed it, and sat down in a single fluid motion. He rested his forearms along the top of the chair back and lowered his head to stare at Damien.
"Tell me what happened in the hospital, Damien. Start with how you got the drug." It wasn't a question, it was an order. Damien decided to try and play the silence-lets-see-who-speaks-first game with Ward, but he wasn't going to fall for it. After only a few minutes, Ward stood suddenly, startling Damien with the squeak of the flimsy metal chair legs against the worn, bare floor.
"Okay." he stated, starting to pace, "How about I tell you what happened instead. That way you only have to agree with me as we go along." Ward stopped mere inches away from Damien's right ear, and he leant down to put his face as Damien's as possible. His hot breath tickled Damien's cheek when he ejected the words, "Got it, buddy?", and Damien nodded dumbly.
"Right." Ward straightened, and begun pacing the length of the short wall. He appeared to gather his thoughts for a moment, although Damien suspected it was an act - Ward had clearly been living and breathing this case all week. "Well, the drug you used was Pancuronium - Pavulon." Ward started. "Poor old Mister Spinner was practically swimming with it when the mortician checked him out. That drug was last used on your shift the day before for a Code Blue emergency involving a female patient at the opposite end of the hallway. You helped clean up after that incident, didn't you Damien?"
Damien didn't answer, and Ward stopped mid-step, wheeling to glare at him, "Didn't you, Mister Everett?" he said with force. Damien nodded again and Mitchell spoke up, asking him to say it out loud for the benefit of the recording. Damien obliged weakly, and Ward continued pacing apparently satisfied.
"So, you manage to find yourself a nice little half empty vial of Pavulon. Now, you could have just gotten so excited by your little find that you decided to use it on the next available patient - just for kicks. But you know what, I don't think you did that, did you Damien?" This time, he didn't wait for a response, and Damien wasn't intending to offer one. "No, you know why I think that, Damien? Because you showed just a little bit too much interest in Mister Spinner from the get-go. I think that Mister Spinner was a threat to you, Damien. I think he was a threat to you so you got rid of him. Finding the drug just gave you the means to do it. Didn't it, Damien?"
This time he was after an answer, and Damien hesitated at first, then nodded again, knowing when he was defeated. Mitchell slapped the table to get his attention, and barked, "For the tape, Mister Everett," and Damien croaked, "Uh. I guess."
"Well, Mister Spinner is just an old man, what could he possibly have threatened you with?" Ward's tone had become mocking now, playing up to his role as antagonist and seemingly enjoying it immensely. Damien just continued to feel miserable, knowing now that he was going down. He had no hope of recovery from this. "Well, it just so happens that we spoke to Mister Spinner only a few days ago, and I think that there may be a bit of a link here Damien. I think that Mister Spinner saw something down at Redton railway station." Ward had stopped pacing again, and he moved back to the table where Damien sat, his head buried in his hands. Ward placed his hands flat on the edge of the table and put his head close to Damien's, he dropped his voice and laced it with brutal accusation, "I think he saw you, Mister Everett. He saw you murder Ariana Mathers, and so you murdered him to shut him up."
Damien looked up, deciding finally that if he was going to go down, he'd better do it in a blaze of glory, he opened his mouth to speak and, when the words wouldn't come, he cleared his throat, then tried again. "I didn't kill Ariana Mathers. I was with her and couple of other guys, but when I left to go home she was well and truly alive. Sir." he added as an afterthought.
Ward sat back down on the reversed chair as though he was settling in for a nice bit of storytelling, and asked Damien to continue. Damien slowly warmed up to his story, and as the day wore on, more and more details came to light. By the time they had arrested Damien for the murder of Mister Walter Albert Spinner and returned him to his six by four holding cell, it was after ten in the evening and Damien was shaking and exhausted, knowing that he had just made either the biggest mistake or the greatest confession of his life. Possibly both, he thought miserably.
Ben had spent most of the day at home, indeed most of the week, surfing the internet for more information on Ariana and completely ignoring the load of study he had for his final exams for the year. He was in no doubt that he would fail the classes he had taken this year, but that was not particularly surprising and at least it meant he would get funding from his parents for another semester. He lived in dread of the day that he actually managed to graduate and his parents forced him to go and get a job. He was 23 now, and he saw no problem with living under parental funding for many years to come yet, provided he could work out a way to successfully do so.
He was busy ratting through the freezer looking for something he could reheat and consume in front of the computer, when he heard a knock on the door. He closed the freezer door and went through to the front of the house, calling out as he did so, "Coming!"
Ben got to the door and opened it but, instead of the friend he was expecting to see, he saw two uniformed police officers. His eyes narrowed as he looked at them, first one, then the other, "What the ...?" he stammered, before the elder of the two interrupted him.
"Senior Constable Mitchell," he stated, holding up a badge. He stabbed a thumb at the lanky officer beside him, "And Constable Platt."
Ben opened his mouth, but had not yet worked out what words to speak, when Mitchell continued, his notebook open as he spoke, "We have reason to believe that you were involved with the murder of one Ariana Grace Mathers last Saturday evening at Redton railway station. You are not obliged to say or do anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you say or do may be used in evidence. Do you understand?"
Ben closed his mouth, and nodded his assent. Mitchell asked him to verbally confirm his understanding and Ben, fighting a throat closing in terror, croaked, "I understand."
With that, Constable Platt produced a set of handcuffs and moved towards Ben, who did not resist. Once he was suitably detained, Ben allowed himself to be led to the police vehicle parked in his driveway. He settled himself in the back seat of the vehicle, laid his head back on the bench seat and closed his eyes to block out the sight of the reinforced partition between the seats, the uniformed officers in the front, the handcuffs around his wrist. His mind instead showed him a stage - the stage where he had been dancing for so long. And then, without warning, the curtains started closing. He felt tears well up behind his closed lids. He let them come.