Today's Reading

She tried to take a deep breath, but the air in the room was rotten already, and the few telltale flies were still tapping against the edge of the blisteringly hot day. They must have grown bored of the body. She walked over and lifted the window by a couple of inches. The flies shot straight out and dissolved into the blue sky, like grains of salt stirred into soup. As she stood there by the window, cold with shock, Megan could hear Henry searching through the nearby rooms, opening wardrobes and looking under beds.

He appeared in the doorway again, a disappointed look on his face. "There's nobody up here."

"Were the windows all locked?"

"Yes, I checked."

"I thought so," she said. "Bunny locked everything obsessively before we left for lunch. I watched him do it."

"What about those doors, are they locked?" He indicated with his hand the two doors to the balcony behind her. She stepped over to them and pulled at the handles. They were bolted from the inside at the top, middle, and bottom.

"Yes," she said. She sat down on the edge of the bed, ignoring the spreading blood. "Henry, do you know what this means?"

He frowned. "It means they must have left by the staircase. I'll lock all the doors and windows downstairs. Stay here, Megan."

"Wait," she began, but he had already vanished. She heard his bare feet thudding unmusically on the steps that were as white and hard as piano keys, heard him pause as he reached the turning in the staircase and slap one palm flat against the wall to steady himself, then heard the course of his movements around the floor below.

She opened a drawer in Bunny's bedside cabinet: There was nothing inside but underwear and a gold watch. Another held a diary and his pajamas. He'd fallen asleep in his clothes, of course. She took the diary out and flicked through the pages. The entries had stopped almost a year ago. She put it back. Then she looked at her watch.

How long would she have to wait here, indulging Henry's make-shift display of taking control, before she could go down and confront him?

* * *

With each door that Henry closed, the house became incrementally hotter, so while he'd started the process in a rush he was now moving slowly and methodically, breathing heavily and walking through each room multiple times to make sure he hadn't missed anything. The layout was confusing, and he wondered why Bunny had come to live alone in a house so large. None of the rooms seemed to be the same shape or size, and many had no windows. No light, but rather darkness visible. It's what you do when you have money, he supposed.

He walked back to the lounge and found her there, perched on the chair he'd been sitting in and smoking one of his cigarettes. He felt he should say something playful, to delay confronting reality at least for a moment. "All you need is the guitar and a haircut and it would be like looking in a mirror."

Megan didn't respond.

"They've gone," he said. "There are plenty of windows and doors down here, of course. They could have got out any way they wanted." Slowly, she dropped the cigarette into an ashtray and picked up a small knife that she'd placed beside it. He hadn't even noticed it; just another slender object blending into the sparsely decorated room. She got to her feet and held the blade out toward him, the tip pointed at his chest. "Don't move," she said quietly. "Just stay right there. We need to talk."

* * *

Henry stepped away from her. The backs of his knees touched the chair opposite hers and he crumpled into it. She jumped at this sudden movement and for a moment he felt powerless, gripping the arms of his chair in desperation. But she stayed where she was. "Are you going to kill me, Megan?"

"Only if you make me."

"I could never make you do anything." He sighed. "Can you pass me a cigarette? I'm worried that if I reach for one myself, I might lose a finger or two. I might end up smoking my own thumb, like a little cigar."

She took one out of the packet and threw it toward him; he picked it up and lit it carefully. "Well," he said. "You've been looking for an argument all afternoon, but I pictured something more civilized than this. What's the idea?"

Megan spoke with the confidence of someone who's outsmarted their enemy. "You're trying to act calm, Henry, but your hands are shaking."

"Maybe I'm cold. Is it me or is the Spanish summer a little nippy this year?"

"And yet the sweat is pouring off you."

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