That night I had a vivid dream which woke me in a sweat, and then recurred whenever I closed my eyes.
I was back in the wooded glade watching the body hanging from the tree by its heels and twisting in the breeze. There was the same terrible gash in the throat and the same rusty crust of blood. The same flies buzzed about the carcass feasting on the flesh, and the same acrid taste of bile at the back of my throat.
It was not these details, real and visceral as they were, that tormented me. It was not the similarities in the dream, but the differences to the events of earlier in the day that woke me up with a start time after time. Every time my psyche took me back to the woodland glade, there was a body hanging there. Each time the body turned to face me it was not the gnarled face of Jonah Elias Saddlebury and his comical eye patch that stared out, but the lifeless smile of Dr. Martha Wimple; her green eyes still and glazed.
Sometime before dawn I grew tired of seeing this image played out again and again. I gave up on sleep and lay awake with my hands clasped behind my head, telling myself that it was okay to be disturbed by the discovery of violent death. However I was well aware that that was only an effort to deceive myself and to avoid the guilt of the truth.
What disturbed me most in the dream was not the actual death of a man, but the implied death of a woman. A woman whose face I saw when I was falling asleep and a woman whose face I saw lying there awake.
This was not a good sign.
It happens to me periodically; I become fully entranced and bewitched by a woman. All I think is her and all I do is related to her. It's not 'love' exactly, I can differentiate it from the love I had for my fiancée Sarah. Nor is it an obsessive lust, though there is a strong element of lust involved.
I freely admit that when I get like this my brains turn to cat shit. The last time I had it this badly was with Priya, and that lasted for years.
Tyrone was right, not only was it deeply unprofessional but bloody awkward timing. It would also cloud my judgement significantly. There was still a chance, however remote, that Martha would be implicated in my investigation and that I would find myself in the position of being biased towards her.
I was pretty sure that she wasn't involved in the deaths of Morgan Edge and her father, or was that the first hint of bias rearing its head? Unprofessional.
Still, I reasoned that if I at least knew that feelings were clouding my judgement then I would be in a position to do something about it. What that something would be, I preferred not to think about.
There were birds tweeting outside in a merry dawn chorus. They bore scant regard to the turmoil in my mind. I rose from the floor and looked out of the window; the horizon was smudged with orange and lilac as dawn started to break.
I pulled on a t-shirt and some trainers from my rucksack and left the farmhouse in the shorts I had slept in. I jogged down the drive to the road and turned right, keeping a steady pace into Pebble Deeping.
I cruised through the village in the muddy dawn light, the burning complaint in my thighs and the wracking of breath in my lungs helping to expunge thoughts of Martha from my head. I passed through Pebble Deeping and up the gently-inclining road on the other side of the village. On a whim, I turned down a footpath that headed up a ridge. The dew on the long grass soaked through my trainers and the sweat pouring off me began to darken my t-shirt.
"Jesus!" I gasped aloud, "I am out of shape." And I was.
I have never been super-fit, but I used to play a fair amount of sport which kept me in a passable state. Now I was exhausted after no more than two miles of easy jog. I stopped on the crest of the ridge and turned to see the sun rise in earnest. Gold fingers of light probed the horizon in all directions. It looked like it would be a nice day. I stretched my legs then dropped to the wet grass and did forty press-ups and enough sit-ups to make my stomach hurt.
YOU ARE READING
Quid Pro QuoMystery / Thriller
Satchmo Turner is a failed private detective from the rusting heart of the Black Country who is reeling from the loss of his sister and fiancee. He's going nowhere at work, and treading water in life, until he picks up a simple missing person case a...