I never met Rodney Bowles. No, that is not true, but when I did meet him we couldn't resolve our differences. For years our Writer's group had met at the Community Centre, it was cheapest place we could find. It cost us a dollar a head when we used the tatty room where we read our pieces and imagined we were Adelaide's Bloomsbury Set!
Rodney was the new Centre Administrator and I suppose when he looked through the books, the first thing he did was to increase all fees at the Centre in an attempt to get it to break even. We all thought that when he was appointed an efficient young manager would be an improvement. Several weeks later we all wished he was dead. Unfortunately I was the one that said it.
"Three dollars," I screamed at the November meeting. "That is utter extortion."
"Well I won't be able to come in future," said Maisie Wivel.
I nodded grimly, holding back a smile. 'No more drivel from Wivel,' I imagined the others saying. I deliberately averted my face so that I wouldn't catch their eyes and burst out laughing.
There was mumbling all round. Many of our group were on a pension and would find it hard. Meals of bread and scrape and starving cats and dogs were forecast. The pleaded with me to do something. So I said "Yes"
"The stupid man would be better off dead. I'll have to go to see him, and see if we can't get some sort of concession."
They all nodded in agreement.
In turn they echoed my sentiments, in a modified form.
"Best if he'd never come."
"Why didn't he stay where he was."
And the pathetic Winnie, who I am sure was slightly simple said, " I hate change. It unsettles me."
So it was that I decided to grab a meeting with him one evening after I had finished work. The evenings were drawing in and that night storm clouds scudded across a darkening sky. Rain was promised and that wonderful scent of dampened dust was already in the air.
"Keep calm, don't lose your cool," I instructed myself. Despite this my own vivid imagination had me thumping his desk, punching his nose and wrestling with him on the floor. As I had never met him, he was weak and ineffectual in my mind and easily succumbed to my superior strength and intellectual prowess.
The car safely parked, I strode towards the Community Centre. Rain was spitting down. The wind was blowing the tall pine trees and making them howl in protest. As I went in through the door a woman was leaving.
"Is Rodney Bowles in there?"
She had a folded newspaper over her bowed head ready for the rain. It shielded her face but in answer she mumbled something about a passage. I leaned toward her.
"He's down the passage."
A waft of her scent engulfed me. I reeled back stifled. When I looked up again. She had hurried away, her high heeled shoes clip clopping on the concrete drive.
I went in through the open door. The passage was long and dark and lit only by the last rays of light from that stormy evening. The windows to the west glowed feebly while those to the east were already black. The offices were in darkness, so I made my way along the passage, one hand feeling in front of me. The passage turned then turned again. Already I had lost all sense of direction.
The wind whistled outside, a shutter banged and with eerie regularity a chain rattled. I stopped, straining to hear. I thought I could hear footsteps but it was only the wind.
Bang! A door slammed and I jumped.
"Excuse me," I shouted.
My call was echoed by the empty passages. There was no reply. On I went.
The passage way ended at a door. The door led into a large playroom. Huge mobiles in the shapes of animals hung from the ceiling. In the half light their grotesque shapes swung in the wind. Every now and then an animal face would leer at me then flick around again. The wind was coming from an open door leading into a garden. There outside the sound of the chains again could again be heard as a child's swing kept hitting it's supporting posts. The rain was heavier now. It splashed into the room and already the down pipes gushed their incy wincy spiders and water on to the garden area.
I strained my eyes in the dark. Was there somebody out there?
"Mr. Bowles, are you there?"
I peered out. Yes there was someone there. In the rain, slumped forward in a wheelchair, well that was a surprise, he was disabled. He didn't say a word.
"Is that you, Mr. Bowles? Can I help you in?"
"Are you all right?"
Damn the man, I didn't want to get wet as well. I would have to go and help him after all.
Rodney Bowles was quite wet. He was quite dead too. A kitchen knife was stuck in his back.
Now tell me this. Why did I move him? He wasn't complaining about the rain, was he? But for some unexplained reason I thought it would be best to bring him inside. More comfy for him I suppose. So my fingerprints were on his wheel chair. Behind him as well!
So why did I touch the knife? Just don't ask me. Perhaps I thought he would get better without a boning knife between his ribs. He didn't.
Well one thing in my favour was that I called the police.
Wrong. It never entered my mind. I got the hell out of there as fast as my feet would take me. Pity I didn't think of all the clues I was leaving behind.
I was amazed at how quickly they wanted me to help with their questioning. They were up earlier than me the next morning, banging on the door at five thirty. Betty just turned over and went back to sleep, while I accompanied them to the station.
I'd like to say how helpful all my fellow writers were. They were able to quote my exact words of the previous Monday evening by rote. Every one of them.
"I believe sir, that your said of Mr. Bowles; 'Stupid man would be better off dead.' Is that correct?" The detective questioned me with grim determination.
Now, to be fair, they did listen to my explanation. They had my statement typed up, neatly double spaced. This I duly signed and they witnessed it. Forensic had a ball, my finger nails have never been so clean.
But you ask, what of the mystery woman? Sadly my description of her was incredibly vague. All I could give them was a folded newspaper, clip clopping shoes and an unidentified perfume. That's the trouble with men, they are not very observant. I could never remember what Betty was wearing, so why should I remember what a complete stranger had on in the dark, when I had gone to see Rodney Bowles, not her. So I agree that things don't look good for me. What makes it worse though, by saying yes, is that I didn't even get the fees reduced.