CHAPTER NINE: A MOST UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY
At last Monday arrived and, having attended to some outstanding domestic business in the morning, Deirdre Gray stood poised for action at the door to the house where Peter Morrison lived, her heart beating expectantly for the footsteps in the hall that would answer her mechanical summons and bring her face to face with someone she hadn't seen in years. It was a pleasantly mild day, bright and dry, which made a change from the recent spate of inclement weather. She hardly needed to wear the long fur coat she had automatically resorted to that morning, more out of habit than premeditated response to the weather. Nevertheless she always took a special pride in looking lady-like and feeling smug. To some extent a distinguished appearance kept the monkey-rabble at bay, and when one was visiting a largely lower-class area like this, it was just as well to have an expensive-looking coat on one's shoulders.
At length the doorbell was answered, and Deirdre found herself confronted by a young woman of extensively raffish appearance. "Oh, excuse me, but does a Mr Morrison live here?" she automatically asked, although she already knew the answer.
The raffish young woman nodded vaguely. "First floor, room six," she replied, with a hint of condescension in her voice.
"Thanks," said Deirdre, closing the door behind her in the wake of the retreating tenant, who evidently lived downstairs. Ugh, what a depressing hovel she had stepped into! She almost shuddered with disgust as she turned to the left and began to mount the grubby grey-carpeted, creaking stairs which led to the first floor. No wonder Morrison suffered from a severe depression! No intelligent man could possibly live in such a dingy hovel with impunity!
Arrived at the floor in question, she passed through a heavy fire-door, which slammed noisily behind her, and halted at the top of the dingy corridor which apparently led to Room 6. There was no sound coming from within and she found herself half-hoping, in spite of her determination to get to the bottom of Julie's mysterious disappearance, that its inhabitant would be out. Nevertheless she duly advanced along the bare corridor and applied the knuckles of her right hand to the cream-painted door at the far end a number of times. Her heart was now in her mouth, or so it seemed. Anxiously she waited with baited breath for a response, but nothing came. Surprised, she knocked again, this time longer and louder. Ah, success at last! The door jolted open with a creak and a pale-looking man of average height but rather less than average build stood before her. At first he didn't recognize her, since she was standing in partial shadow, but as soon as she spoke his name and asked whether she could talk to him a moment, his face brightened and his mouth shot open in wonderment.
"Deirdre!" he cried. "What a pleasant surprise!" He stood back to admit her to his room. Smiling, she crossed the threshold and was shocked to discover that it was otherwise empty. No sign of Julie. Only a rather sharp smell in the air, like acid or disinfectant or something, and this in spite of the fact that one of the windows was wide open, like in the middle of summer. Baffled, she blushed suddenly and stammered something to the effect that she had half-expected to find Julie Foster there.
"What makes you say that?" he asked, as he gently shut the door behind her.
"Only that she told me she was intending to visit you last week," she nervously replied.
Deirdre's blush deepened. Could she have been mistaken? "Well, I just thought that, since she hasn't been at home these past few days and her husband is worried about her, she might still be here with you."
"Really?" Morrison's face turned grey with apprehension and his hands began to tremble slightly. "Julie told you?" he repeated, in subdued astonishment.
"Why, yes," Deirdre confirmed. "She phoned me last Wednesday to say that she had visited you the day before and had been invited to do so on Thursday as well. Since then, I haven't heard anything from her."
Morrison had gone across to the open window in order to close it. "Are you sure you're not imagining things?" he queried, turning round. "I mean, are you absolutely certain she mentioned me personally?"
There was a moment's shocked pause while he endeavoured to gather his thoughts and steady his nerves, which were fast becoming something of a serious liability. At length, he drew attention to the room's only armchair and requested Deirdre to take a seat, which she reluctantly did, not bothering to remove her fur coat. "And you think I may have hidden her somewhere, is that it?" he commented, almost insolently.
"Well no, of course not," Deirdre responded, blushing some more. "Only ... it does seem rather odd that she should be missing from home all this time, with no apparent explanation. Her husband phoned us - my husband and me - late last Thursday evening, wondering what could have happened to her and, since we had no idea, we weren't able to be of any real help to him."
"Yet you apparently knew she was with me," he remarked.
"Indeed," Deirdre admitted. "But I could hardly allow myself to betray her, under the circumstances."
"And what circumstances would they be?" he asked. There was a distinctly suspicious note in his voice.
"That she wanted her visit to you kept a secret," Deirdre revealed, becoming flustered under pressure of her mounting embarrassment.
Morrison smiled to himself. Yes, how feasible that statement seemed, the dirty double-crossing bitch! "And her husband presumably phoned you again, over the weekend, to inform you she still hadn't returned home, is that it?"
"No, in point of fact my husband phoned him," Deirdre corrected.
"Oh, I see." At which point Morrison paused to reflect, before asking: "So how did you get my address - through Julie?"
Deirdre blushed anew and swallowed with difficulty a ball of saliva which was threatening to choke her. "Actually, I traced it through your landlord, Mr Stone, by first referring to the address you had once sent me in a letter, remember?" It cut a long story drastically short, but seemed better than nothing.
"Am I supposed to?" he rejoined, conscious of her marital status.
There ensued another pause while Deirdre tried to figure out whether or not the question was rhetorical. At length, undecided what to make of it, she opted for a question of her own. "You did mean what you said in that letter, didn't you?" she ventured. "I mean, you claimed to be in love with me." The words virtually spoke themselves, despite her evident embarrassment at saying them.
"I guess I was to some extent," he unsmilingly admitted. "Or perhaps it would be truer to say that I'd had my love for Julie severely compromised by the discovery of her musical tastes - the records in her collection being anything but compatible with my own record-buying predilections. At the time, I would hardly have considered myself a fan of the Monkees, let alone J.S. Bach! The spectacle of those records in her room, coupled, I might add, to the fact that she already had a boyfriend whose presence I could hardly ignore, was sufficient to dampen down my enthusiasm for her. And since you were the only other attractive woman to-hand, and one, moreover, whose musical tastes I subsequently discovered to be more approximate to my own, I automatically gravitated to you, though hardly as a man head-over-heels in love. For I was still emotionally involved with Julie, despite my cultural disillusionment. It was more an act of defiance, at the time, than an amorous craving ... which goaded me in your direction."
A further blush erupted from Deirdre's face, this time with every justification. For she had quite misinterpreted the motives for his behaviour, not to mention the letter that followed it. She had simply assumed, out of vanity, that he was genuinely in love with her. "And the letter?" she asked, now merely seeking confirmation of his duplicity.
"Written in part to establish my position in your eyes and in part to avenge myself on Julie, though I don't suppose she ever saw it," Morrison replied.
"No, I kept it a secret," Deirdre confessed, with lowered eyes.
Looking at her thus, he couldn't deny that she was a beautiful woman, even if a little on the thin side. She struck him as a ballet-dancing type, a nimble ballerina, what with her slender physique, aquiline nose, piercing blue eyes, and fine dark-brown hair, tied-up, as it now was, in twin plaits on the back of her head. She could also have been taken for a nurse, if an unusually pretty one! Of course, he knew from experience that, unlike most nurses, she had an element of the bitch in her character, an imperiousness coupled to an impertinence which could prove unnerving, not to say socially offensive, to anyone unfortunate enough to fall foul of it. Of aristocratic temperament, she wasn't above whispering or even saying false or deprecating things about one in the presence of others, and then under the mistaken assumption that one wouldn't overhear it or take offence if by any chance one did, presumably because one was too stoned or stupid or deaf or something. This public openness and apparent lack of social tact had more than once been directed against Peter Morrison himself, and although he pretended to not having heard it, he was by no means immune to its malign consequences. No doubt, it had played a part in ensuring that his relations towards her remained relatively cool, even after he had turned away from Julie in disgust at her musical tastes. She wasn't the most warm-hearted of persons, in any case. Yet if one thing more than any other had led him to take an amorous interest in her in the first place, it wasn't so much her looks, unquestionably good though they were, as her temperamental and intellectual compatibility with himself. She was like an alter ego to him, reflecting his own cultural predilections not only in her choice of records but, just as importantly so far as he was concerned, in her choice of books as well - literature being her principal study while still an undergraduate. With Deirdre a mutual appreciation of the arts would have been both possible and feasible. With Julie, on the other hand, such a thing would hardly have been possible or feasible at all! In some respects, Deirdre was a freak, an exception to the female rule, a kind of Irish Simone de Beauvoir. Julie, on the contrary, was more the typically sexual and maternal woman, unsophisticated to the point of philistinism. No woman could ever be less guilty of philistinism than Deirdre. In her cultural sophistication, she was virtually a man!
But what of her body? Morrison was beginning to wonder if he hadn't been mistaken, previously, in considering it too slender to be particularly seductive. Perhaps there would be something sexually compensatory about it which he hadn't as yet envisaged - an ardour or intimacy which transcended Julie's calculated reserve. To be sure, there was little of the Rossetti-like wounded deer or hunted Beatrice about Deirdre, as with her friend. Au contraire, the chances were that, where Julie had been passively submissive and almost begrudging, she would be actively encouraging, shamelessly involved in the sexual act and providing every incentive she could, short of actual copulation, to attain her ends. Struck by this speculation, he wondered whether he oughtn't to attempt having it verified that very day. After all, Deirdre was there for the taking, despite her ostensible concern over Julie's welfare. Would not a convenient excuse or false explanation on that score put her mind at rest? Yes, he didn't see any reason why not.
Taking advantage of the opportunity afforded him by the silence, he said: "You know, there was a degree of sincerity about my letter, whatever else may have prompted it. I was becoming romantically interested in you at the time. Still am interested, for that matter, in spite of Julie's presence here recently.... By the way, if you want to know what she's doing, I sent her on an errand."
Deirdre pricked up her ears. "Oh, what sort of errand?" she asked, clearly baffled.
"A political one, actually," Morrison declared,
frowning. "If you must know, I have
some political contacts in
Deirdre felt somewhat nonplussed by this, since it was quite unlike Julie to involve herself in political affairs, whether or not on anyone else's behalf. Indeed, despite what her friend had told her on the telephone last week, she couldn't believe that Peter Morrison was involved in politics anyway, least of all in a revolutionary capacity. And yet if he was, then it could only mean that Julie was determined to do what she could for him in order, presumably, to worm her way back into his affections. No wonder she hadn't told her husband anything.... "Well," said Deirdre, after Morrison's explanation had begun to sink in and establish something like a credible niche for itself, "if that's the case, then I guess I'm simply wasting my time here. Now that I know where she is and am in possession of the knowledge, at long last, as to why you once wrote me a long letter, I may as well leave you to your own devices again."
She stood up and was on the point of exiting the room when he approached her and put a restraining hand on her shoulder. "I said there was a degree of sincerity in that letter, and so there was," he averred, blushing faintly. "If you must know, I think you're a better-looking woman than Julie and would be interested in winning your friendship and keeping you here a bit longer. Besides, since you took the trouble to come here anyway, why not prolong your stay an hour or so, eh?" He moved closer to her and, putting his arms about her waist, ever so gently placed a kiss on her lips. She stared at him blankly a moment, as if a kiss was the last thing she had expected, then briefly smiled and relaxed a little. He unbuttoned her fur coat and drew her against himself, causing her to encircle him with her arms. "I used to like the way you'd occasionally move up really close to me," he said in a low voice, "until our bodies were virtually touching, like you wanted to give yourself to me on-the-spot, wherever it might be. You had a peculiar knack of being physically intimate without necessarily committing yourself or saying anything."
Deirdre smiled coyly. "Still have," she admitted.
"And I was tempted to take advantage of it," he confessed, smiling in turn.
"In what way?" she wanted to know.
"Like this," he said and, applying his lips to her mouth, he pressed a long hard kiss upon it, a kiss which mysteriously had the effect of inducing Deirdre to wrap a leg around his legs in order to increase their intimacy.
Yes, there could be no denying that she was a very different kind of woman from Julie, not one to hold back when sex was at stake, and now that Morrison felt sexually aroused, he lost no time in gaining the quickest possible route to her affections ... as he lifted her off her feet and tumbled to the floor with her, kissing her violently while groping for her panties. There could be no question of undressing her gently and slowly, like with Julie, for she was no hunted Beatrice but an accomplice at inflaming passion. What did it matter that she still had her skirt on, if he could get the panties off her in double-quick time and thus speed-up their sexual coupling? Once they were out of the way and she had opened her legs, pulling them back in order to facilitate his entry, he would be free to remove his own sartorial obstacles and drive himself between them with lustful vengeance, like a battering ram assailing the gates of a besieged citadel.
She cried out from the sharp pain of his phallic onslaught and turned her head to one side, as if to hide it from him, but put no physical obstacle in the way of his rapid advance. Rather, she opened her legs wider to ease the passage of his rampant organ and so reduce the pain of phallic intromission. He was already riding her fiercely, like someone on the point of orgasm. For this was the way he had decided to deal with her - in complete contrast to Julie. He wanted to drive his member in as deeply as it would go, to use it as a lever with which to lift the interior of her womb up to the wall of her stomach, or somewhere nearby, and just as eagerly he wanted to take it right out and ruthlessly drive it back in again. But this wasn't to be, since Deirdre was doing everything in her power to facilitate his ride and keep him mounted, now that she could sense the rapid approach of their destiny. And not only her, but he could also sense its approach, which further prompted him to intensify his ardour and quicken his ride. They were both heading for an orgasmic collision somewhere further along, and nothing short of disaster could have averted it. Within seconds he was feeling the tension rise precipitously towards the tip of his erection, and then, suddenly, fierce spasms of ejaculated semen surged through it with a forcefulness he hadn't known with Julie and would never have suspected himself capable of, triggering off a return broadside from Deirdre. He had put a lot of effort into this coupling, though hardly to no avail, and now he realized that he wasn't impotent after all, but simply dependent on the right kind of woman - like Salvador Dali, who, if what he'd read about him was true, could only reach sexual fulfilment with his wife, Gala, and with no other. Peter Morrison had certainly reached such fulfilment with Deirdre, and, unlike Julie, she had simultaneously arrived at it with him. He could hardly believe his luck!
Withdrawing himself from her, he flopped over onto his side in physical exhaustion, the sweat streaming off his brow. He had found sexual satisfaction at last, and with a woman whom he would previously have considered too slender to be capable of giving him any! Now he realized how mistaken he had been, in the past, to think that; for his speculations of the minute before had indeed been verified. There was certainly nothing passive about Deirdre's approach to sex. She was liberated all right, and a pussy to boot, the kind of female for whom he had a special weakness. Why, with her fur coat still relatively in place, despite the exigencies of their joint coupling, she was every bit the classy, dark-stockinged, suspender-wearing feline woman of his dreams, even down to the fine texture of her tied-up hair, which complemented the rest of her seductive appearance and highlighted the slender beauty of her nape. There was perfume of an alluring sweetness behind her ears, although that wasn't, by any means, the only place where such a sweetness could be smelt. There was plenty of it elsewhere, too!
He sat up beside her, a warm smile on his face, and began to stroke her hair. Then he crouched down by the tip of her toes, in order to get a better look at her crotch. "Lift your legs up and pull it apart for me," he demanded, his curiosity growing.
Obediently she did as he wanted, her hands coming round from under her thighs to assist in the business of exposing, to his avid gaze, the hitherto buried treasure of her sex. He was well pleased by this performance and, as much to tell her so as to satisfy a nagging desire, he crawled forwards on hands-and-knees and tenderly placed a kiss on it, which briefly caused her to titter, in spite of her customary serious tone of mind. Julie would have been frightfully self-conscious and bashful here. Not Deirdre! She rather revelled in his sexual curiosity. After all, it had been a long time since husband John had shown anything similar. "Do you like it?" she teasingly inquired.
"Sure I do," he admitted, before proceeding to stoke her. "You're pretty all over, just as I had always suspected you'd be. Women like you generally are. Their cute little faces suggest as much. Still, I'd long been curious to discover exactly what sort of a pussy you had between your legs - whether it would be of the elongated or squat variety or something in-between, how much pubic hair it would sport, what it would smell like, and so on. Now I know and am well satisfied that it matches up to my previous high expectations. Little diamond-shaped pussies like yours I find particularly alluring, as should be evident by the avid response of my cock."
He got to his feet and lifted her legs up, pulling them back as he straddled her stomach with his back to her face in order to survey her sex from above. She made no attempt to resist him but allowed him to stand astride her, like a colossus, as he held her inverted feet against his groin and continued to stare down the length of her legs to the hairy cynosure of sexual commerce beneath. She was both intrigued and slightly amused by his stance, and when he pulled her legs right back, so that her knees were pressing against her breasts, and proceeded to squat down on them ... she could do no more than wriggle a little and titter anew. Yet squatting was no less a temporary measure than standing, and before long he was transforming his voyeuristic curiosity into oral sex, as he gently slid himself down upon her and applied an exploratory tongue to her upended orifice - a thing she had never experienced before, since her husband was fundamentally too shy and morally squeamish to indulge in oral, especially from such a dominating position as the one Peter Morrison had now adopted! She liked the way his tongue caressed her most tender flesh and, for his part, he was in no doubt that the identical experience with Julie would have been more satisfying, had she been alive at the time of his succumbing to it. Deirdre was proving this point to him in no uncertain terms, as he orally manipulated her and listened, with mounting pleasure, to the non-verbal responses which were involuntarily issuing from her mouth. He would make her quiver with ecstasy before the afternoon was out - of that she could rest assured!
And so time passed and, wearily, his lust fully sated, Morrison picked himself up from Deirdre's limp body and slowly started to get dressed. For her part, Deirdre had only to put her panties back on and straighten out her skirt, which she quickly did; though not before she had taken off her fur coat and realigned her nylon stockings. Then she sat down in the armchair again while Morrison, having put himself sartorially to rights, decided he needed to visit the toilet, which happened to be situated between the ground and first floors to one side of the main stairs. This left her alone for a minute or two and, since she was sitting within easy reach of his bookcase, she casually scanned the titles on display there, all or most of which were on the middle shelf. Before long her eyes alighted upon a rather worn Australian reprint, dating from 1971, of Tropic of Cancer, and, curiosity aroused, she fished it off the shelf in question and began to flick through its yellowing pages. Almost at once, a photograph tumbled out of it onto her lap. Surprised, she picked up the photo and cast its garish colours an inquisitive glance. Automatically her hands began to shake and, involuntarily, she dropped the Henry Miller novel to the floor. Her eyes were virtually popping out of her head, as she stared aghast at the half-naked body portrayed there in instamatic colour. With legs wide apart and skirt hitched-up round her waist, arms to her sides and a ghastly white face, Julie Foster's was the body stretched out on the floor of this very same room, the very same electric fire burning behind her head, the same wallpaper above it, the same carpet hugging the contours of her prostrate form. It took Deirdre no time to realize that, when this photo was taken, Julie had been anything but a live woman. A live Julie Foster would never have allowed anyone to photograph her like that!
Horror-stricken, Deirdre felt like vomiting, so ghastly was the impression the photo made on her. Instinctively she staggered to her feet, gripping her stomach in one hand and the incriminating evidence of her friend's murder in the other and, just at that moment, an unsuspecting Peter Morrison casually returned from the toilet.
"What have you done with her?" she cried, as he approached her with a surprised look on his face, a look that was soon to turn to dread and dismay when he realized what had happened.
"Done with whom?" he responded, feigning puzzlement.
"Julie!" came her immediate almost hysterical response. "Tell me at once!"
He attempted to snatch the photo from her hand, but she backed away from him in one swift movement. "Give it to me," he demanded, holding out his hand.
"What have you fucking-well done with her?" Deirdre repeated, this time in a much louder voice.
"I told you, I sent her on a political errand," he replied, trying to contain his nerves and fearful of what her voice might reveal to the nearest neighbours.
But she simply repeated her question yet again, as if incapable of saying anything else, and this time so loudly that he felt compelled to hurl himself upon her in order to silence her.
"What I'm fucking-well going to do to you, you nosy little bitch!" he snarled, dragging her to the floor.
She struggled bravely, putting up more resistance to his assault than ever Julie had done, but he held her throat in a powerful, two-handed grip, and nothing she could do would release her from it. The life was slowly ebbing out of her as her struggles became more desperate and involuntary, her face turning crimson. She was losing strength by the second and, inevitably, she too went the way of Julie Foster, the tensions in her body suddenly dispersing as she choked to death in the throes of one last terrible spasm.
Only after five minutes had elapsed did he loosen his grip on her throat, and by then there was absolutely no life left in her. It was a ghastly experience for him and, as he turned away from Deirdre's prostrate body, tears once more welled-up in his eyes and came flooding down his cheeks. Ahead of him lay another terrible ordeal in disposing of a corpse, and that no sooner than he had got rid of the previous one!