"Hey sis it's for you."
Cassie giggled, shaking her head as her cousin handed her the phone, smiling.
"Yes Rajeev, this is Cassie...and can you please tell Adrian if he calls me one more time before the wedding –
Though spoken in a low voice, the other women in the room looked up simultaneously at the tension in the last words of the conversation.
"A-Adrian...? For God's sake! Tell me, where is he?" Cassie shouted.
The others stared as her whole body seemed to shudder for a moment, and then she went still. "Which one?" She nodded. "I'll be there now."
Turning to face her cousin, Cassie spoke in that same voice of deadly calm. "Adrian is dead. I must go to the police station."
* * *
Inspector Ranil of the Slave Island Police Station looked up in surprise at the woman who had just entered. Although he had known that the deceased was a groom on the way to his wedding he hadn't quite expected to see the bride standing in front of him like this, dressed in her wedding gown, her veil pinned on a little crooked. Then again, what could he have expected? That she would change into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt before coming to the police station? Actually he hadn't known what to expect anyway, the situation was unnerving enough. It was only natural for the poor little girl to run in crying, lifting her voluminous skirts as she ran, tears forming furrows of mascara down her rosy cheeks.
But the bride looked calm enough. The inspector took in her dry eyes in some admiration, as well as a little fear...was this how he would have liked his wife to react in the same situation, he wondered... But he could see that behind her façade she was struggling inwards – her hands were clutched tightly around a lace glove to keep them from trembling, and her lips quivered slightly as she spoke.
Inspector Ranil inhaled deeply. He was not enjoying himself. "Your – your...fiancé...has been unfortunately killed in an accident." He paused momentarily before the word fiancé, because he had nearly used the word husband before recalling that it was not the case. "On Union Place." On the way to the church, he thought unhappily.
"The car was hit by an oncoming lorry. The driver has been arrested and –
“And he has been found to have been under the influence..." he finished somewhat lamely. How to justify a death by claiming it was unintentional?
The girl showed almost no emotion. At that moment a young man rushed in, shirt half unbuttoned and tie loosened. He glanced at Cassie and made as if to hug her, but on seeing her composed look his expression softened, and he sat beside her.
The inspector was feeling increasingly awkward, and the entry of a third party seemed to relieve him. He gave the best man an inquiring look, and Rajeev replied, "Yes Sir, Adrian's parents will be here shortly."
Cassie turned towards Rajeev, a look in her eyes. "I am so sorry," he said softly, "when we arrived it was too late..." Cassie nodded quickly. Then she turned back towards the inspector.
"Sir, it was not an accident. My fiancé was murdered."
The inspector gave a start. “Cassie! What are you saying? Come, we should go now," Rajeev said.
Cassie’s eyes filled with tears. “Don't you see? Every one of you was blind. So totally blind, just like him."
Inspector Ranil had been watching the interchange with some interest. "Ma'am is there anyone you suspect?" he asked, looking intently at her expression.
"Yes. Suranjith Wijesuriya."
She spoke softly but firmly.
Rajeev stared at her. "Are you crazy? Sir she's under so much stress that –”
"I know perfectly well what I am saying. He killed him, just like he said he would." She was trembling again, but Inspector Ranil noticed that this time, it was not just sorrow or even fear.
"I need to know, ma'am," he asked her, "Who is this Suranjith? Had he threatened to kill Adrian Fernandez? Why?"
"Suranjith is my ex-boyfriend. I broke up with him more than two years ago but ever since then he never left me alone...he kept telling me to get back with him...He – he said he loved me so much that he couldn't live without me, that I would never find a man who could love me as much as he did..."
It was only a very rare woman, the inspector thought, with whom it was possible for a man to fall so passionately in love with that it became an obsession, a craze. He had come across so many crimes of the sort – each a case of unrequited love where a man was driven to kill – stabbings, stranglings, poisonings, suicides...
None of the women involved in these tragedies were particularly beautiful, angelic or extraordinary in any way. They were not the type of woman one would expect a man to die for. And yet, he thought, the irony was that men always did, time and time again.
He looked at her again. The sophistication of the grown woman, the maturity and control of the adult, yet at the same time an almost childlike simplicity and sincerity in the eyes that looked at him, appealing, vulnerable, but also fierce, hard and unyielding. And he now knew what had unsettled him earlier, when she had first walked in.
"When Suranjith saw me with Adrian at a party he assaulted him. It was only because his friends were restraining him that a fight was avoided. But I saw his eyes that day," she went on, "up until then I had felt pity for him, but that day I felt nothing but disgust. And now – I hate him!"
The inspector looked up in amazement at the intensity in her voice, and saw such passionate hatred in her eyes as he had never thought possible in such a woman.
"I was at that party too", Rajeev said. "Several times afterwards he threatened both Adrian for hitting on his girl and me for supporting it."
"Adrian never saw it as a threat. He kept telling me that Suranjith would grow out of it one day, that he would find himself another girl and move on with his life..." She smiled tenderly. "Adrian was the kind of person who thought that just because he had a large heart, so did everyone else. He did not understand that people could be vengeful, dangerous...that they could hate.
"But I knew Suranjith. And I was scared. That is why I begged all our friends to keep our relationship a secret, and why we hid it from him that we were getting married..."
"In that case, ma'am –”
"But he found out. And he told me that he would kill Adrian rather than let him marry me, because I didn't deserve a loser like that." Cassie shivered. Rajeev put his hand over hers.
Inspector Ranil cleared his throat. "Ma'am I think you should leave now. We will put in some inquiries regarding the whereabouts of this fellow and do the needful. We might need you again tomorrow to make a formal statement. And before you go, ma'am," he added respectfully, "the – err...the body is in the police mortuary until the investigations are completed..."
Cassie stood up. "Thank you," she said. How many women in this position would think to thank him, he wondered. "I do not wish to see it. To the rest of the world Adrian maybe dead...but to me he is not." She put her hand over her heart. "This love, this laughter, this joy inside of me...it is all him.” She looked towards the door to the mortuary. "That is not Adrian. He is with me, as always.” And as she smiled her face looked beautiful, angelic almost.
In spite of himself, Inspector Ranil felt a little queasy. He looked in the direction that Cassie's eyes were turned, where suddenly, a ray of mid-morning light came in through the grimy window, a bar of golden dust...a spotlight illuminating – what?
And in that moment Rajeev caught the gleam in those angelic eyes... And ever so slightly, they smiled at each other.