Artur and Guillaume (part 2)
This is the problem. It is not as if he can just apologise, say it was all a big misunderstanding. I’m sorry old chap. No hard feelings.
But he has to do something.
He takes a seat on his beaten down sofa and he thinks. He thinks until the morning and as the sun comes up and he hears the deaf woman arriving at the shop downstairs, the clunk of the door opening, her heavy sabots across the wooden floor, he has his plan.
As a young man Artur had worked, until his hands reacted badly with the lime within the objects he handled, as a bricklayer. There is a certain station in the region’s capital, a hub of international proportions. Artur had a hand in that. As well as a hospital here, a schoolroom there.
“And if I can do that,” he says, “then surely I can do this.”
He slips the shithouse Guillaume another dose of the noxious substance and, checking that the curtains are closed, that everything is all in order, he saunters out with all the casualness he can muster into the morning air.
It takes him four trips to three different merchants to purchase everything he needs. While he works he strips naked, not wanting to spoil the new threads he is still wearing.
“Don't be embarrassed by my nudity.”
He stands over the bound and gagged Guillaume, the gag being another of his recent purchases. He’s never been better than anyone.
“You’re a shitbag. You’re the son of a whore. I’m going to fuck your mother.”
This is almost better than murdering someone. Then he wonders what will happen when Guillaume needs to defecate. He grinds his teeth together.
In the early hours of the morning he stops to prepare some food. This he divides into two bowls and after eating his own and after having warned his captive not to shout out, it is still not too late to murder him most foully, he removes the gag and feeds Guillaume spoon by spoon.
“Why are you doing this?”
Guillaume asks the question between one mouthful and another. He remembers Guillaume sitting on the train, his perfectly pressed suit, his aromatic coffee, his girlfriend with the big boobs.
That is the answer.
Life is not fair.
After one week Artur has finished his construction project and standing back he admires his own handiwork with some pride.
It is marvellous! Even if he says so himself.
The secret room he has created would be invisible to the casual eye and he is particularly pleased with the candle sconce he has affixed to the wall to serve as a door release. It has something of a story about it.
“And this is to be my home?” Guillaume’s voice has lost something of its usual imperturbability.
“Yes, it will be, but first I have to do something that will act as a finishing touch to my plan.”
That evening Artur secrets some more of the noxious substance into one half of the food he prepares and then feeds it spoon by spoon to his charge.
"In the morning," he says, "all will be well. You'll see."
As Guillaume slips into unconsciousness Artur retrieves the medical textbook he has purchased for the purpose and then, consulting it closely, flipping the pages back and forth, he pins open Guillaume’s mouth and with a skill he didn't know he had, he cuts out his tongue and manages successfully to staunch the flow of blood.
"And that is the final piece of the jigsaw," he says.
Lifting the still unconscious Guillaume he carries him through into the secret room and places him gently upon the new single bed he has purchased.
"Sleep tight, my friend. Tomorrow we begin our new and happy life together. I promise you, you will want for nothing."
Stepping back into his quarters he watches with pleasure the smooth way the door closes. He has done a good job. Even if he says so himself.
Some months pass and some things happen; minor escape attempts, racking bouts of tears, supplications, both chest and brow beatings. But, and this is the most important thing, they adapt, this pair, to a situation that neither of them had planned for.
Three months in Guillaume begins to ask for books, writing his requests on the notepad that Artur has supplied for the purpose. Artur, sensing these requests are a signal Guillaume has come to an acceptance of his incarceration, is more than happy to oblige and in this way the flat is soon filled with the works of Alexandre Dumas, Erskine Childers, Jules Verne, Honor de Balzac and so on.
Artur who has never been much of a reader, but puzzled by the hours that Guillaume is able to spend with his nose poised above these brick-like objects, gives the habit a go himself. There are some he likes, The Count of Monte Cristo for example, and others he does not, what, he enquires, is the point of Madam Bovary? But more and more he finds he is drawn to pages of print and finds himself engaging with Guillaume’s recommendations, discussing plots and characterisation, he patiently waiting as Guillaume transcribes the points he wants to make in his neat and precise handwriting.
One afternoon Artur panics when he sees the distinctive sides of a police car outside. When there is a triple knock at his door he nearly looses his bowels.
The flic is fresh-faced, his hair neatly combed over. Just a few routine questions, he says, his face somber. Did you know the lady downstairs?
It appears the deaf woman has been found dead. No foul play is suspected but has he heard anything?
Artur shakes his head that no he has not. He is shocked. Nothing happens around here. Nothing like that. People just go on.
Death happens to us all in the end, says the policeman drolly and then he goes away.
After this revelation Artur spends a nervous few months. What will happen to the shop? Will the new owner want the sitting tenant above? And if he is forced to vacate then how will he move Guillaume?
When the letter arrives quite out of the blue one morning he rushes through the secret door to tell Guillaume the news. The old deaf lady, having no children herself, has left the shop to him.
“It is all mine,” he says, “lock, stock and barrel.” And then, when Guillaume doesn't laugh, he explains the joke. “It is a gun shop. She sells guns. Or she did. Now I do!”
Guillaume reaches for his pad. “Well done,” he writes. Then he writes, “I'm extremely happy for you.”
Another year passes. Artur takes to selling munitions like a duck to water. He likes the explosive power the firearms exemplify. He feels a new happiness and confidence he has never experienced before. So when Guillaume makes his next request, he is more than happy to comply.
“My fiancé," he writes, "I have often wondered what happened to her. Would you be able to find out?”
Artur remembers the woman from the subway station. She is not difficult to track down, still living in the same house as she did when Guillaume was courting her. She is a beautiful young thing, blonde haired and slender but with a sadness around her eyes, like she has suffered some great tragedy in her past.
Artur is a different man these days. He has money in his pocket and wears fine threads. Also, following Guillaume’s example, he has been performing a strenuous set of circuits each morning so his body is slender and taut. Even his hair has become silky.
“So what is she like?” writes Guillaume.
“She is beautiful,” replies Artur simply and that night lying in bed he repeats this phrase again and again while thinking of her tender face.
The next day, without Guillaume’s knowledge, he goes to her house with a magnificent array of flowers and asks if he may walk with her. She blushes, thinks for some moments and then obliges.
They go to the Champs Elysse and parade with the other young lovers, not that they are lovers, not yet.
Not quite yet.
He talks to her about books. She is a keen and voracious reader and remembering Guillaume’s neat little phrases he repeats these to her verbatim. Sometimes he catches her looking at him and he asks, ’what?’, and she shakes her head and says, ’oh nothing’. She is the sweetest person he has ever met.
He has another plan. Of course he does. Who wouldn't?
Image from Pixabay
Read Part 3