|Publisher:||Wimbledon Publishing Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Simon Brown is the author of 18 popular books and is well known for his work in healing, feng shui and health.
Read an Excerpt
Death of a Butterfly
By Simon Brown
Wimbledon Publishing CompanyCopyright © 2013 Simon Brown
All rights reserved.
The adult butterfly lays eggs which hatch in about 3–7 days. The young caterpillars start off eating frantically for 2–3 weeks. They grow quickly and increase their body mass by a few thousand times.
Caterpillars grow so much that they shed their exoskeleton several times, and can change their appearance through this process.
I watch my aunt pour the pearl jasmine tea. Her long fingers clasp the handle whilst her free hand gently touches the lid. I listen to the bubbling sound of the liquid falling into the cup. My eyes stare into the swirling steam. I see the reflection of the window in the surface of the tea. I pick up the cream china in my hands and feel the warmth. I lift the smooth curved handle and touch the rough unglazed surface underneath. I smell the sweet fragrance, letting the steam float across my cheeks. I tip the cup slowly until the liquid touches my lips and seeps into my mouth. The heat spreads across my tongue and gums. I taste the jasmine and slowly return my cup to its saucer.
I am living more of my life as it happens through my senses. I look up to see eyes, set within peaceful faces. My mind interrupts, grabbing an inherited judgement. Instead of beautiful, loving humans, I see a rapist, murderer and the woman my once beloved husband left me for. I wash those thoughts from my consciousness. This is my new family. These are the people I have chosen to explore the next phase of my life with.
I walked up the paved path to my front door. My mind turned to tea and biscuits, before marking Monday's homework. It was late September, and dry brown leaves had blown up against my door forming a small pile. I brushed them to one side with my shoe, letting them spiral into the wind. I fumbled through my bag for my keys.
As I looked up I saw my reflection in the glass. My shoulder length hair had blown to one side creating a lopsided appearance. Long wriggling snakes fought each other. Their blond heads seemed to want to escape their darker roots. A few strands had stuck to my lip-balm. I unlocked the latch and pushed the door open, hearing the familiar sound of the draft strip brushing across the mat.
My new business cards were scattered across the black and white hall tiles. I squatted down to impatiently scoop then up. I held one up to the light. Oh fiddlesticks, the mauve background seemed a little too pale for the white letters.
As I walked into the living room, I was jolted out of my rhythm. I dropped my bag and keys. My eyes slid down Mathew's body and froze on his left ankle. His skin was showing. Mathew hated his trousers being short.
There were small white feathers on our beige carpet.
I knelt and pulled the charcoal grey fabric down to his shoe. I touched his cold hand and straightened it so I could tidy his sleeve. I smelt Mathew's cinnamon fragrance. I started to adjust his tie, and then felt helpless. The end of the tie seemed to have been sucked into a hole in his chest. The maroon silk blended into the wound. The fabric was matted to his shirt and skin by dark coagulated blood. Nausea rose and I instinctively put my hand over my mouth. Slumping back against the side of our blue sofa, a shaking consumed me. Tears ran down my cheeks. I pulled my knees to my chest and rocked back and forth.
The feathers blew around me as I swayed.
I could not trust my senses. The image in front of me was all wrong. There had to be some way back to my normal sensations. I wanted to shout out that there had been a mistake. Yet I was too numb too act, too anaesthetised to feel any emotion. I had been struck dumb.
I still had my old red coat on when I opened the door to a uniformed policeman. I was aware of a peripheral commotion, blue flashing lights, cars pulling up, a large woman opening the gate but it was the constable's face that held my gaze. He held my arm, gently leading me back into my home.
"Is there another room you can sit down in?"
We passed the living room door and I sat at the kitchen table. I looked at a circle of crumbs on the bare wood surface.
The constable put the kettle on.
I looked back down the corridor and could see men and women sealing themselves into zip up protective clothing. Two strode into the living room. Flash, flash, flash. A man knelt to examine the front door. There was banter, organisation and familiarity to their routine.
"Here you are, Mrs Blake." The constable placed a cup of tea in front of me. An orange Bart Simpson stared at me with an inane grin, jolting me into a different reality for a split second before the numbness kicked in again.
A large sky blue, nylon-suited woman spread out on the chair opposite me. Her rose perfume was overwhelming. She took a chocolate bar out of her bag broke it in two and put half in front of me.
"I'm Inspector Pride. How are you?"
"Confused, shocked, disorientated."
Pride looked at me sympathetically.
"I'll find someone to help you. Do you feel ready to just go through the events?" She took a bite of her snack.
I held my half and looked at it.
"Hey ho, life's a box of chocolates."
I immediately regretted saying that. It was a saying my mother used a lot. Dad used to say it completely out of context to make me laugh. Mum's face, lined with a deep frown, made it all the funnier. As I got older I inherited the expression and it would appear in my head whenever life took a difficult turn. My mother explained it as meaning life was full of surprises. Sometimes you bit into a chocolate and enjoyed the filling whilst others tasted disgusting. Dad extended the expression to include random objects. Life's a bowl of fruit, life's a shop full of clothes, life's a cupboard with three pairs of shoes. The more obscure the context, the funnier my silly expression became. Those words had become so ingrained in me that today they flew out of their own volition.
Pride looked at me with a quizzical expression for a moment.
"Yes, well, right now I need to hear what happened when you came home."
I nodded. I wanted to talk. I wanted someone to help me make sense of it all. I hoped the inspector would drag me back to normality. My skin crawled as I considered she might join me in my nightmare.
After I described my homecoming, there was silence. The inspector looked a little confused. She finished her mouthful.
"So you came home from school at four-fifteen, found your husband dead on the floor, but did not call us until six?"
I nodded. I felt a pang of guilt. The thought flashed through me that this made me a suspect. I had a history of feeling nervous around authority. I remember feeling tense around my teacher, the odious Mrs Maddox, as a child. Even as an adult, I am self-conscious when in the presence of the head teacher. Now I felt a need to persuade the policemen and women in my home that I was innocent.
"I just couldn't believe it. I just froze." And then as an afterthought I added, "He doesn't usually come home until six."
I put my hand over my mouth in an attempt to stem the stupidity coming out of it.
"There is no obvious sign of a break in. Do you know anyone who might have done this? Any enemies he has upset?"
I shook my head.
"I keep asking, Why? Why my Mathew?"
"Your husband's wallet was on the table, does he usually keep money in it?"
"It was empty when we checked."
A policewoman took me to our neighbours, Edward and Edwina Edwards. Mathew and I used to laugh about their names trying to imagine Edward's parents snorting with laughter as they wrote Edward on the birth certificate. We later found out that Edward changed it himself, by deed poll. He used to be called Peter. Edwina was her original name. We assumed they got drunk and thought it would be a hilarious wheeze to get married and be Edward and Edwina Edwards. They even shared the same birthday, although Edward was two years older than Edwina's thirty-five.
I used to smirk in their company when they mentioned each other's name, but not today.
Edward stood by the window adopting a martial arts style stance. He looked athletic and rooted to the ground.
"Oh Amanda, you poor thing. You must feel like you're whole world's fallen apart. Who would have thought the grim reaper would visit our quiet street." Edward continued his karate kata with a series of strikes and blocks. Then he took off his glasses and shook his head with a look of resigned disapproval.
"If I get my hands on the culprit, I'll ..."
Edward spun round and executed a sidekick, catching the sofa with his foot. He lost balance, hopping on his standing foot until retrieving his striking limb. He must have injured his groin, as he limped back to the window pressing his hand into his hip.
Edwina made a point of ignoring him and sat next to me on their brown leather sofa. She put a glass of red wine in front of me.
"Well, I hope they catch whoever did it."
"Live by the sword, die by the sword," Edward muttered.
Edwina put her arm around me. I felt the softness of her body.
"Don't worry, Amanda, we'll look after you. Eddy can get your things and you can stay the night."
I wobbled emotionally and started sobbing again. I didn't want them to see me like this. Edwina led me to bed and left some sleeping pills on the bedside table.
When I woke, I cried my heart out. Edward came in with some tea and sat on the side of the bed. He put his broad hand on my head and gently moved my tear soaked hair to the sides of my face. His skin felt warm. I smelt orange scented soap. He pulled a tissue from the box on the bedside table and dried my face. Edward sighed.
"Once more unto the breach."
Edward left. I looked at my phone. Tuesday 7.45.
Inspector Pride came round later during the morning. She collapsed into a plump black leather chair opposite me. There was an initial thud followed by a slight wheezing as the fabric of her clothes adapted to the shape of the chair. These small, obscure details occasionally broke through the heavy fog pervading my mind. Edwina offered to make some tea. I began to smell the inspector's fragrance.
"Do you feel ready to talk?"
"No, not really, but if it would help ..."
"So far we know your husband died between one and two yesterday afternoon. He had just eaten some salami, salad, bread and water. We think he opened the door to someone and that person came into the living room. It would appear that your husband was kneeling when he was shot, as though he was executed. He was shot three times in the chest from about two metres. The assailant was standing. One bullet pierced his upper left ventricle. He would have died very quickly. The killer used a cushion to help silence the shots."
"I just don't understand why someone would want to kill him."
"Apart from the money in his wallet, have you noticed anything else missing?"
"In the night, I remembered Mathew's watch was missing."
Pride wrote on her pad.
"Can you describe it?"
"Black face, orange hands, chrome body and black leather strap. I bought it for his forty-eighth birthday."
Edwina came in with the teas. Pride looked at the three cups of steaming tea and, I thought, gave a little sigh.
"I think I have a little treat in here." Pride rummaged through her bag and produced a packet of chocolate biscuits. Pride offered me a biscuit and I took one even though I did not particularly like them. I didn't want to offend her.
"Okay, so far we have no motive other than an unknown sum of cash and wristwatch. Let's try and explore some possibilities. What was your husband's work?"
"Mathew ran a men's clothing shop with James Harris in Welwyn Garden City. It's called Stiletto. They had been working together for four years."
Pride looked up from her pad. She frowned and I thought a shadow crossed her face.
She said the words with a hint of menace as she wrote them down.
"And how did they get on?"
"Fine, I think. They had minor differences, but nothing serious."
"Did your husband have any close friends?"
"He liked social events, parties, dinners and playing his guitar, but apart from James he did not have any close friends."
"Did he go out on his own much?"
"Just up to London to play at various blues jam sessions."
Pride raised an eyebrow.
"He would go to a club with his guitar and they would each get called up to play a couple of songs."
"How long have you lived here?"
"Since we were married five years ago, just after my thirtieth birthday."
"How long did you know Mr Blake before your wedding?"
"About a year. My mother died in a car accident and in an effort to stop moping about the house, I went to tango classes and met Mathew. My father died of a heart attack five years earlier, so Mathew became my new family."
I swallowed hard to contain a rush of sadness that threatened to spill over. I did not want to cry in front of Pride. I certainly did not want her to comfort me.
"Do you feel able to go back to your home? I would like you to see if anything has been disturbed."
My left eye twitched and I pressed my hand against the eyeball to stop it. I looked up at Pride and nodded.
There was blue and white tape marking out an area around the front door. We entered. I felt awkward. It was as though my home and I had been very close, but we had experienced something so awful that just seeing each other conjured up a terrible reminder. I felt an icy crevice between us. I pushed my hands into my pockets and kept myself away from the walls and furniture. My only contact was my tentative steps on the floor. Pride introduced me to Derek Sopwith. Mr Sopwith took my fingerprints to eliminate mine from the crime scene.
"Have you got anything, Derek?" Pride called out.
"Not yet, Inspector. I don't think we will find any DNA here. There's nothing on the wallet. I think the victim must have handed any money over himself. Just a smudge on the front door, made as the attacker left."
Pride took a call and asked whether there was any news from interviews with neighbours.
I started in the living room. A plastic sheet covered the area where Mathew had been shot. I noticed our big orange cushion on the floor with holes in it. There were black marks spreading out from the holes. The feathers had floated out across the room and into the hallway.
I experienced a flash of frustration thinking of cleaning it all up. I took a deep breath and looked at the rest of the room.
Everything seemed to be in place. Mathew was the tidier of the two of us. Sometimes I would find him straightening all the books on the shelf or rearranging the clock, candles and photos on the mantelpiece. He had a piercing eye for detail. I found it slightly intimidating. It felt more like his house than mine.
I remember, after a year or two of living together, starting to experience a discomfort when I finished dressing, and he cast his critical eye over me. He never made any comments, just observed with an intense expression. My friends smiled when they saw Mathew picking a hair off my jumper or flicking a piece of dust off my shoulder.
Recently I had begun to put on a little weight. I had filled out around my hips and my legs were chunkier. I began to feel uncomfortable undressing with Mathew in the room. I felt he would be quick to notice any new bulge, cellulite or wrinkle.
"Where was the wallet when you found it?"
"Derek, can you show Mrs Blake where the wallet was?" Pride called out.
Sopworth came in with a laptop. He squinted as he searched through files until an artificially bright photograph appeared with the brown wallet on the smoked glass living room table. It was placed close to the corner so that the two nearest edges of the wallet were parallel and equidistant to the edges of the table. Only Mathew could position his wallet in such a way after handing over money to someone pointing a gun to his chest.
I tried to look at the room with Mathew's sense of precision. The symmetry of the mantelpiece was unbalanced. I put my hand to my mouth and gasped.
"The photograph of us in Paris is missing."
"Can you describe the photograph and the frame?"
"We were standing on the roof balcony of the Pompidou Centre with Paris behind us. It was in a plain wood frame."
Pride wrote in her pad.
"Can you notice anything else?"
There was a slight gap on the bottom bookshelf. My copy of Practical Wabi Sabi was slumped at an angle and pulled out slightly. Our old photograph album should have occupied the empty space. Mathew had made up a printed album of all the best photographs of the two us for our fifth wedding anniversary. I checked the other shelves. Pride encouraged me to search the rest of the house. I looked for the album in all the obvious places but it was not there. I noticed I became slightly frantic, as though finding the photographs would bring some sense of security.
I walked back into the living room and reported that the album was missing. I felt a chill run up through my abdomen to my heart. I began to feel invaded, exposed and vulnerable. The killer had too much information. Pride looked perplexed. Sopworth was the first to speak.
Excerpted from Death of a Butterfly by Simon Brown. Copyright © 2013 Simon Brown. Excerpted by permission of Wimbledon Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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