A DATE WITH DEATH
By Lawrence Kadzitche
They were new to the location. They had moved into the semi-detached house a month ago. But they quarreled almost everyday. He didn’t know about what. The thick wall between them wouldn’t allow him hear what it was all about.
All the same, he heard their quarrels. The husband always talked in a strange husky baritone. Something that always irritated him. Then the wife. A piercing tenor. Judging by the voice, he had imagined her to be an ugly little woman.
But he was surprised when he saw her. She was big, tall and breathtakingly beautiful. The husband, on the other hand, was a small chubby man. His name was Justin Tchuthi.
Frank couldn’t understand how he could mistreat his wife. According to Frank’s estimation, Flora, the wife, could easily squash Justin in her big hands like a rotten tomato.
But things didn’t go that way. The diminutive man was the one that terrorized the mountainous woman. Almost every night, he could hear his blows and the woman’s agonized cries.
“Christ, why doesn’t she retaliate?” he had asked himself in despair when Justin was on the rampage.
Flora was always smart and well dressed. Frank always wondered how she managed to take care of herself considering the trouble she was in. Frank had to grudgingly admit that although Justin mistreated his wife, he knew how to dress her.
But the beatings bothered him. In the first place, he didn’t understand how the beautiful woman had got to be married to the ugly dwarf. As if that was not enough, how could the big woman allow the cretin to beat her? How for God’s sake?
As the wife battering continued, Frank felt he had to do something about it. He could not just stand aside as the little vicious man beat his wife.
His first step was to try to get to know Flora. Of course, he had to accept that this action was prompted by the fact that he was attracted to Flora.
“Hello!” he greeted her one sunny morning.
She looked at him and smiled brightly. The smile sent a wave of warmth spreading throughout Frank’s body.
“I’m Frank, your next-door neighbour,” he went on “I…”
Before he could go on, the woman simply nodded her head and without a word walked away. Frank felt anger boil within him. Had the evil man reduced her to this level of an imbecile? He would teach him a lesson. By God, he would teach him, he swore. The mad man had no right to such a beautiful woman. No right at all. He would show him.
The fights seemed to intensify. At such times, Frank would toss in bed, wondering whether to intervene or not. He would imagine himself beating the little evil man to pulp and then comforting Flora in his loving arms. But he never gathered enough courage to confront Justin.
One day he arrived home late from a friend’s birthday party when a vicious fight suddenly erupted next door. He put his ear against the wall, straining to hear what was going on. But he could only hear the sound of blows and stamping of feet. The fight went on for some time. Then it stopped as abruptly as it had started.
‘Oh, God!” he heard the shocked exclamation of the man.
Frank’s heart began to race. So Justin had killed her. How could the brute kill such a beautiful woman? How? He was going to pay dearly for this. There was no way he was going to let him get away with the murder.
His heart thumping wildly, he waited to see what the murderer would do next. After what seemed like eternity, he heard the front door open. Then there were footsteps outside. He debated whether to follow or not. But there was a danger that the man could see him. He had already killed. Murdering another person wouldn’t be anything new to him.
He decided to stay put. If the killer was sure there was no witness to his crime, he would return to the house after dumping the body. When he came back, that would be the time to call the police.
About thirty minutes passed. Then he heard his neighbour’s front door open and close. The killer was back from wherever he had dumped the body. It was now payback time.
“This is Frank Thewera calling. A murder has been committed in Jontcho Street house number 204…”
An hour later, a Police Inspector accompanied by two constables arrived in a Land Rover. They found Frank waiting for them outside his house.
“I’m Frank Thewera, the one who called about the murder in house number 204,” he introduced himself, excitement vibrating in his voice.
“Can you show us the house, please?”
“Yes,” he said eagerly. “It’s just next door. Follow me.”
The next minute, the police were knocking at Justin’s front door.
“Open up in the name of the law,” the Police Inspector shouted.
The door swung open. Whatever Frank had been expecting to see wasn’t what he saw. For standing in the doorway, dressed in a see through nightgown that revealed her curvaceous figure, was Flora!
Frank’s eyes almost popped out with astonishment, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly like that of a fish out of water.
“Oh it’s you Frank; are you alright?” she inquired in a tone that suggested intimacy.
The question took Frank by surprise. What did she mean? Their eyes met. They were hard and calculating. Frank found fear contracting the pit of his stomach.
She led the way into a plainly furnished room. Frank had expected to find it in disarray. But everything seemed to be in place. In the center of the room four armchairs stood around a stool. A black and white TV set stood side by side in one corner on a table.
She waved them to the armchairs but they opted to remain standing.
“We had a call that a woman has been murdered in this house,” the Inspector said.
Flora frowned. “A woman? I’m the only woman in this house and no-one has been killed here.”
The Inspector looked confused. “But we got a call that there was a fight in this house in which a woman was killed.”
Comprehension dawned on Flora’s face. “Oh I see. I quarreled with my husband this evening,” she paused and bit her fingernails with shyness. “He accused me of going out with Frank.”
Frank had a premonition that something had gone terribly wrong. Why was Flora pretending to be a good friend of his when in fact they had never exchanged even a word? Then her smile, it did not extend to her eyes.
“My husband went next door to confront Frank,” Flora went on in a voice Frank found disturbing. “I heard them quarreling. The next thing I see is you coming in here,”
The statement took Frank aback. “Inspector…” he started to protest.
“Shut up!” barked the police officer. “Where is Mr. Tchuthi, Mr. Thewera?”
“I don’t know…”
Flora slapped Frank hard. “You say you don’t know while you were quarreling with him not long ago? Where is my husband?”
Frank was confused. There was something wrong with Flora’s voice. But faced with the unsavoury prospect of being accused of murder, he had no time to think about that.
“I said where is my husband, idiot?” Flora shouted, shaking Frank by the shoulders.
Frank felt trapped. Cornered. He now saw how it would all appear in court. A young bachelor messing around with the neighbour’s wife. Neighbour finds out and confronts him. He bumps him off in a fight. Verdict? Guilty as charged.
Panic descended on him, shaking his body.
“Answer the question, Mr Thewera,” it was the Police Inspector.
But the fear of what he had got himself into had robbed him of his voice. His body was shaking badly. He sank into a chair.
The Police Inspector produced handcuffs. “Mr. Thewera, I’m afraid I’ve to take you to the station in connection with the disappearance of Mrs. Tchuthi’s husband.”
As Frank was being led to the police van, he tried to think what had gone wrong. Then he got it. The voice. Flora’s voice was a husky baritone.
So he had been wrong all along. What he had assumed was the voice of the husband had been that of the wife. It was the case of the wife battering the husband.
Flora was the one that had killed her husband. But how was he going to make the police believe he was innocent?