Playing a part

Harrison pulled up his squad car outside ivy-covered gates. Below him the city sparkled like a jewel. It looked like heaven from a distance. He pushed a button set into the stone. A crackling honey voice wafted , ‘Ye-eesss?’

‘Police, Miss Marchant.’

‘Ah, yes. I’ve been expecting you.’

He was ushered into a room that seemed to serve no purpose, other than to be the bottom of a sweeping staircase. It was on the landing, halfway up, he first saw her in the flesh. Martine Marchant, pronounced with an inflection, born Mary Martin in a two-bit town that had since blown away. And she was magnificent. Backlighting traced her curves through fine silk.

‘We’ll talk upstairs.’ She beckoned then turned.

Harrison was a hard cop with a brittle heart. Before long she had him wrapped around the same little finger that had beckoned him upstairs.

On his second visit he took flowers.

On his third he took a pearl broache worth a month’s pay.

But his fourth came after a chance conversation with a neighbour who’d been on the road the night of the murder. He took cuffs and back-up.

It was Miss Marchant who greeted him. But the woman whose rights he read, minutes later was someone altogether different—the dustbowl daughter the actress had once been.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (