The Darkened Room
Everything is Prologue
‘I’ll kill him, I will! I will!’ she said, and began crying. The friend she said this to testified against her in court. Leonora Davison was a tall, heavyset blonde who had once been beautiful and the man she was threatening to kill was her ex-husband, Sam Davison. A man who had discarded her for another woman. A woman he subsequently married. A younger woman, of course, who looked the way Leonora had when she was a young newly-wed. The new woman’s name was Susan and she had the same thick, wavy blonde hair and the same beautiful blue eyes as Leonora- but she had a lithe, lean frame and firm, tanned skin. She was twenty five; Leonora was forty one. When Leonora loved it was for keeps. As Sam Davison would eventually learn. Davison was a wealthy, handsome man, a doctor. Things had always come easily to him and when he had no further use for them he simply let them go. Leonora could not do that. That was her tragedy and she would make it his.
Early in the morning of November 3rd 1989, a white Chevrolet Suburban four wheel drive turned on to an empty street and stopped at the two storey brick house near the end of Banksia Avenue. Sam was a dashing dresser who wore only custom tailored suits and had a top hat and cape for more formal occasions but Leonora turned up to kill Sam and his new wife, Susan, wearing casual clothes and loafers. However, she also wore a diamond necklace and earrings. She was not well and she had a gun. Upstairs, Sam and Susan were asleep. Sam wore only boxer shorts. Susan was nude. Leonora knew the children were spending the night at Sam’s mother’s place and she was taking them school the next day. To get to the bedroom Leonora had to get through a locked door. Susan knew Sam had started a war with Leonora and insisted they sleep, as if in a fortress, with the bedroom door locked- even though Sam mocked her for it. She had seen Leonora with a gun in her hand (aimed at her) and seen how well she handled it and how powerful she looked with a gun in her hand. But, unfortunately, Leonora knew the house. The housekeeper had let her in when no one was home because she was too afraid of Leonora to refuse and then was too afraid to tell her employers what she had done. Leonora had strolled through every room, upstairs and down. She knew that if she went through a small study next to the bathroom she could enter the bedroom through another door. To her surprise, although she believed she had made virtually no noise, the minute she entered the room, Sam woke like a sleeping cat and Susan woke too and started screaming. Both of them could see the gun in her hand. Sam yelled, ‘Call the police!’ But nothing was going to save either of them. They just didn’t know it yet.
Leonora started firing and as she did she made a tremendous exhalation. A noise like ‘AAAAAAAAH’. As if all the pain, the hate, the rejection was flying out of her. As if toxins were leaving her body. She fired five times, though she only remembered firing once and only remembered that a long time later. Strange, she thought, that she hit them with every shot. It was so dark in the room she could only make out dim shapes. Sam had tried to grab the phone but Leonora wrenched it away from him, pulled it out of the wall and threw it on the floor. Susan was hit in the head and her beautiful body lay tangled in bloody sheets. She died instantly. Sam was hit in the back, arm and leg and a bullet also entered his lungs. He died thirty minutes after he was shot. He was never able to call the police.
Later she tried to explain over and over that, yes, she was crazy when she shot them but that Sam had deliberately made her that way and then used it to take everything away from her. Her house, her self-esteem, her dignity and finally her children. He just never understood that a crazy woman was a danger. He despised her so utterly he never thought she was actually capable of killing him. It was on these grounds that her lawyer considered it to be manslaughter, not murder. Leonora was never prepared for the cold flipside of love. Her entire life had been Sam and her children. His needs trumped hers and she had never been prepared as a girl for anything other than being a wife and mother. Nor did she actually want to be anything else. Losing Sam meant losing her life’s work, her purpose in life, her sense of herself. The way he treated her, when he decided to throw her away, destroyed her. In her mind she had no choice but to destroy him so that she could survive. Like a child striking out, she removed him from the woman who had taken him from her and also killed her rival. It wasn’t rational. Nothing about it was rational. Why couldn’t anyone understand that? Her bond to him was not only emotional, it was sexual. And once sex rears its lovely head all bets are off. Nothing she did was logical but sex is not logical. They didn’t seem to understand that either.
A Shopping Spree
She had Sam’s wallet with all his credit cards, his license and a photo (a selfie) taken on the beach of him holding Susan in his arms, both of them smiling and glowing with the Look of Love. She had taken the wallet from a dresser in the bedroom after firing the shots. Later the police asked her sneeringly how she could see it if the room was so dark. It held his gold credit card. She decided to go shopping, as she always did when she was stressed. She was angrier than she had ever been in her life. ‘What has he made me do? Why can’t I remember?’ she said over and over again as she drove downtown and parked in a multi-storey car park.
The first thing she needed was chocolate. So she headed to a coffee shop that sold handmade chocolates, ordered a coffee and an expensive box of chocolates. But they were for later. Now she wanted a slice of double chocolate and caramel cheesecake. She wanted sex too, naturally, because for her sex and chocolate went together. Later she would see about that, too. Why should she be monogamous when it seemed everyone else was not? She sipped the coffee and spooned the cheesecake into her mouth, savouring every bite. She knew she was out of control but she found she kind of liked it. Leaving the coffee shop she turned her steps to a shopping mall that she knew had a lot of very expensive boutiques.
First Sweet Temptation, which sold lingerie. The salesgirls looked at her generous curves and hid their smiles reasonably well. She bought three very expensive teddies of lace and ribbons - black, white and red. If Sam was dead, she was going to jail but not without one last glorious splurge. Happiness and consumption were now one and the same in her mind. He had cheated her out of money but now she had his credit card and he had no say.
As Leonora wandered down the mall, hitting one shop after another; clothes, handbags, jewellery, perfume- there was nothing she didn’t want- Sam’s mother arrived at his house for a prearranged outing with Susan. The front door was hanging open.
‘That’s strange,’ she thought, still with a cheerful smile on her face. Since he got rid of crazy Leonora everything was going swimmingly. She had never liked her.
‘Hello? Anyone here?’ she called, checking her watch. Yes, it was nine thirty a.m., the time they had arranged. The silence suddenly seemed very ominous. She could hear a clock ticking, she could hear the birds chirping and fussing outside the window. Normally Sam would be on his way to work and Susan was an early riser; she would have been up for hours, but she wasn’t in the kitchen or the lounge and both their cars were in the garage when she went and checked. How odd. Calling their names she slowly walked up the carpeted stairs. There was a strange, sickly smell in the air. She didn’t know that it was blood until she got to the top of the stairs and looked into the bedroom. Everything swam, then, and she thought she would collapse. Flies were crawling on their bloodied faces. Their eyes were open and flies were all around them, moving like eyelashes. She turned, screaming, and ran down the stairs.
While Sam’s mother called the police, Leonora was in Sophisticated Lady having her nails done. She had made three trips to the car so far to put all her purchases in the back. Then she made her way to Café Noir, a favourite place for lunch in the days when Sam still loved her, or pretended he did. As she sat waiting for her meal to arrive a man at the bar began giving her the eye. She wasn’t used to this anymore and put her head down at first but then she remembered that having sex was part of her splurge. She lifted her head and smiled at him. Catching sight of herself in the mirror behind the bar she could see that she looked quite pretty. The chocolate, the lingerie, the endless spending had excited her. He came over to sit at her table.
‘Mind if I join you?’ he asked, with a knowing grin.
‘Of course not,’ she said. Was it so obvious that she was available? But then she thought, ‘What the hell. Soon I’ll be in jail and it might be for a very long time. I might as well enjoy myself and if he’s a serial killer, it will save the state a fortune.’ She stifled a laugh.
He was looking at her, studying her face and body but she didn’t care about that either.
She had a bottle of Moët sitting in an ice bucket by her chair. ’Like a drink?’ she asked him and he nodded, still smiling. He was fair haired, in his fifties, she thought, with very blue eyes and lovely hands with long fingers. Tall and slim. He had generous pink lips and his mouth curved up at either end. A lucky mouth, she thought. No wedding band but she guessed he was someone’s husband. So what? Someone had had her husband, it was only fair. The black teddy, she thought, would be the one he would like to see her in. Soon they were in a hotel room and she was wearing the black teddy and eating chocolates- until he took the chocolate box out of her hands, took the teddy off her and climbed on top of her. He sucked her breasts, first one then the other and put his finger up inside her, moving it backwards and forwards in a slow, practiced way. She ran her hands all over him and kissed his neck and his chest. He liked that very much and pinned her to the pillow in a passionate kiss, all his weight on her as he rubbed his penis on her thighs. He was an experienced and vigorous lover and she came three times. Then he got out of bed naked and walked to the bathroom to take a shower. He was muscled and tanned – obviously fond of the gym and the beach. Then he put his clothes on and left -after planting a lingering kiss on her lips. He took her number but she was sure he would never call. A good thing too, since she was going to be arrested for murder. He told her his name was Ian, but it probably wasn’t. She reached for the chocolate box. Saw by the clock on the wall that it was now two pm.
The police were swarming all over Sam’s house and Sam’s mother had gone to pick the children up from school so that they wouldn’t come home to this nightmare.
‘Leonora did this,’ Sam’s mother told the police with tears in her eyes. ‘His ex-wife.’
Then she left to pick up the children and take them to her place. She also gave the police Leonora’s address but Leonora was sleeping by that time, in a plush hotel room with an empty chocolate box on the floor, where she had tossed it. The man who may or may not be called Ian had paid with his credit card for the room. She told him her name was Tania Smith. It didn’t help. Her face was all over the TV news and someone in the hotel saw her getting out of the elevator. She saw the news herself and fled the hotel. She was a wanted woman after being unwanted for so long. Ironic.
Antonia Hildebrand is a poet, short story writer, novelist and essayist. She was born and educated in Toowoomba Queensland, Australia. She married Reinhard Hildebrand and moved with him to Hamburg, Germany, living and working in Europe for three years. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a major in English literature and in 1993 she graduated Master of Letters (German) from the University of New England.
Her first published short story appeared in Downs Images and also in Woman's Day and she has been widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies in Australia as well as Britain, the USA and Ireland. She has reviewed books for the Toowoomba Chronicle newspaper. She contributed to Radio National's Bush Telegraph program. Many of her short stories have been broadcast by Queensland Storyteller on Radio 4RPH and by Radio 91.3FM Yeppoon. Her latest book is a short story collection, ‘A Simple Twist of Fate’ (Ginninderra Press, 2020).
Bienvenue au Danse, Antonia.