Just a quick report this time, Émilie. There are things I need to discuss with Jo but I’d better give you a quick précis of the morning’s events. I suppose I should have expected it, but it’s not something you enjoy. No one wants to have to lie to a grieving parent about the whereabouts of their dead son’s face.
So, as I’m sure you remember, the last report I sent to you was largely concerned with the fact that somebody broke into my house and left a teenaged boy’s face on a plate in my kitchen as a little present. You’ll also remember that I burnt the face. This might have been a little rash, I agree, but I’m sure that you’ll agree that nobody wants a dead face hanging around their home, no matter how immaculately removed it may be.
Anyway, I woke up early this morning. Well, early for me and to my surprise I was first one up. I suppose that Jo might not have slept well after what she saw. I made my bitter sludgy coffee and I waited for my housemate to come down so I could get on with the business of questioning her. Arguably the timing was bad but I didn’t want to give her too long to create a convincing lie. There was just something about the way she reacted, or her lack of reaction, that had unsettled me, that made me think she knew more than she was letting on. So I sat and I drank my titanically strong coffee and I thought about the best way to go about this. I had settled on my old favourite bluntness when the doorbell rang.
Now, Émilie, I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was unusual, to say the bloody least. People keep away from me. I make sure of it. I tell them what I am so they’ll walk on the other side of the road. So when the doorbell rang the morning after our little home invasion I was somewhat perturbed, which is not a state I enjoy. I pulled my dressing gown around me to make sure that none of my bits were showing, stomped over to the front door and flung it open.
Standing on my front porch was a straight-backed, well-dressed man with closely-cropped dark hair, just on the wrong side of middle age, and about two feet taller than me. So bloody tall that I was forced to crane my neck to properly glare at him. As our eyes met I felt my desire to ruin his morning dissipate. It was obvious that he hadn’t just had his morning ruined. I knew who this was. As he cleared his throat I looked past him to the street and saw an only-slightly shorter blonde woman waiting by a black people carrier, clutching a handkerchief and trying not to look back at me. I turned my attention back to my visitor as he began to speak.
“I know that you’re...I know what you say you are.” He paused and broke eye contact, his head turning on his giant’s shoulders to look past me. I realised that Jo had repeated her trick from last night and appeared behind me without my noticing. It’s impressive but it’s irritating. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t realise you had…” He broke off again, evidently unsure of exactly who Jo was.
“This is Jo, my niece,” I lied through a neighbourly smile. “Don’t worry about her, she knows. What can I do for you?”
He nodded at Jo and turned back to face me. Whatever he knew, he didn’t seem very scared of me.
“I’m sorry, Ms Belmont, but I need to know. I need to know if you had anything to do with what happened.”
Now, yes, this was an obvious opening but I wasn’t about to admit to anything straight away.
“I’m sorry, what are we talking about?” I asked.
He kept that eye contact, staring straight at me and there wasn’t just sadness in those eyes. There was anger too.
“My son,” he said, confirming what I already knew. “I need to know what happened to him. Did you have anything to do with it?”
I had a choice at this point. I could have told him the truth. I could have told him that, while I didn’t have anything to do with it, I was slightly aware of the situation and I had disposed of some important evidence. That there was a plate in my dishwasher that was waiting to be rinsed clean of his son’s DNA. So, obviously, I lied.
“No…” I said, and left it at that. He clasped his hands together and held them a few inches away from my chest as he started to sob.
“They took…when they found him, his face…” Listen, I’m not completely fucking heartless, of course I wanted to jump in and tell him that I knew, and that I was sorry. But I’d made my bed and he had to finish his thought on his own. And to the man’s credit, he clearly had the guts to go with that freakishly huge body. He straightened up, got his weeping under control and started to speak slowly but clearly. “My boy had no face when they found him. It had been…removed.”
Jo gave a little “sympathy” sound that I tried to replicate. I think mine sounded more like disgust but, in fairness, both were appropriate.
“I’m sorry to come around like this but you told us what you were and I just thought…I know it’s none of your business, but if you had any idea who could have done this, or if you could…”
He tailed off again and started looking hopeful. I knew that I had to make something clear to him.
“Jo, go inside.” There was a moment’s pause as I could feel her eyes burning into the back of my head before I heard her stomp off indoors. “Excuse me, Mr…”
The man held out a long arm. “Charles Kitson. That’s my wife Anna down by the car. My boy’s name is…”
“I’m sorry; Mr Kitson, but I can’t help you. I understand what you’re asking of me and why you’re asking it, but I can’t.”
He looked at me with those big blue eyes sticking out of his big head and it was obvious that he didn’t understand. “I don’t understand,” he said. “You come here, you tell us you’re a…you said you were a goddam witch, Ms Belmont. We’ve all left you alone, just like you asked. Are we just supposed to let you keep living here while this sort of thing happens? You say you’ve had nothing to do with it, why should I believe you when you won’t lift a finger to help me?”
I let him get all this out of his system. It’s very important to allow people to vent. When he looked like he was coming to the end of his rant I raised my hands.
“I can’t expect you to understand, Mr Kitson. I can only tell you that there is a balance and I cannot interfere at this time. Now please, take your wife and go home. Please don’t make me make you leave.”
With that, I stepped back inside and closed my front door. I waited until I heard him leave and the car pull away. When I got back to the kitchen, Jo was waiting for me.
“He asked you to help, didn’t he?” she asked. I nodded. “And you said no?” I picked up my mug of coffee and went back to bed.
It’s later now and I’m going to have to explain myself to her. But why? Didn’t you tell her about the way we do things? We don’t involve people. We don’t work for anybody. She’s going to accuse me of being heartless but it’s not that at all. It’s just the way we do things. I’ll talk to her. But I’ve got the strangest feeling it’s only going to make things worse.
I hope you're enjoying this series, please let me know what you think. I enjoy writing Eliza and I'm looking forward to writing the next few instalments. Go on, have a song.