Chapter 1

The alcohol didn't help any more; all it did was make him sleepy and numb, but it had ceased giving consolation and long lost its taste. Philip didn't even feel strong enough to hurl the glass against the wall, which would have been too dramatic anyway, and besides, there was no one there he could piss up with that. He had never thought he would miss Mary at all. Of course she wouldn't really have gotten angry. She would have looked at him reproachfully and then cleared away the whiskey and the broken glass with a huge fuss. There would have been this pity in her eyes he had always resented… poor Philip, he is an invalid, he probably can't help it. That had been worse than a fit of rage. Was he even a human being to her, rather than an "it" to be fussed over? Sometimes he had succeeded in tearing her out of her indifference for a moment, to irritate and provoke her, and then he had felt almost alive – yet only almost. And now he missed her…almost.

He had never really belonged to the family, and Philip knew they were blaming him for the whole incident. Incident – how harmless that sounded. It meant his wife's death. If only he hadn't been so curious, then… Curious! Sure, one could call it that. HE had realized that none of the others had the slightest interest in finding out the real murderer. Mary had not even understood at first that everyone was a suspect. Her imagination had never been sufficient for picturing things like that – and imagination was one of the few things left to Philip.

Mary had surely loved him in her way, but she had never wanted to understand how much he resented being treated like helpless cripple. She had wanted to protect him, which had eventually cost her her life. Everything had happened so fast; he still didn't grasped how it had happened. Philip had been sitting in the semi-darkness of the library with a glass of whiskey as he had done so often. It had become one of his habits, which Mary had hated. He had almost admired her for her way of expressing her resentment; she never openly complained to him but only brought him a cup of tea and put away the whiskey. The semi-obscurity was the best atmosphere for thinking, and it heightened is senses as he sat there sipping his whiskey, which tasted a lot different than usually. Also, the lack of bright light was merciful on him for it neither brought his own wheelchair-bound reflection back to him, nor did it show the pity in Mary's eyes and the rejection in the others'.

Strangely enough he had never thought himself in danger, even when he was almost positive that Kirsten had committed the murder. Funny, for why should she hesitate to get rid of him when she had never liked him anyway? He had never told Mary of his suspicions; it had been an accident that she was in the library at that time. Kirsten had not noticed her, and upon her raising the knife, Mary had started screaming and thrown herself in front of him. Had she even known what she was doing? Probably not. Like a maniac, Kirsten had stabbed at her, again and again; Mary had had no chance. A wound on his arm was all he had suffered, painful but by no means fatal. Mickey and this Professor, who had kicked this whole thing off, had hurried in from the adjoining room and had overpowered Kirsten.

Philip had had enough time to think about his relationship with Mary. He had liked her calm manner back then, and also, she had been a pretty young woman. He had been a pilot, handsome albeit of humble origin. The match seemed ideal: an heiress to a considerable fortune who did not seem to be too clingy. It had not taken him very long to notice his error. Mary was an indifferent person without many passions – except for him. She had not uttered a single word of criticism upon the failure of Philip's business ventures, whereas it had eaten him alive. Some day he would show them all. Until then he had at least been able to create the necessary leeway, but then polio had changed everything.

Never would he be able to forget the day his physician had told him he would never walk again; the fits of rage, the resignation and the question he had always asked himself: whether he shouldn't simply swallow a few pills more. Mary had selflessly taken care of him – she made a good victim in general. The poor young woman, what is left of her life if she has to take care of her husband all the time! After a few months, he had despised her. She had stifled him, slowly but surely stifled him.

Philip had always been a man who came across as distant and even arrogant. He knew how to use his charm and was always friendly, yet he dealt with people as though through a pane of glass. He saw them, but never engaged in their lives. He had been in love with Mary, but the feeling had never consumed him entirely. Philip recalled his friend Matt telling him that he was getting married; this radiation, this beaming, this obvious joy. Philip had never known that and often asked himself if he was even capable of true love. What Matt had had was so different from the feelings he had harbored for Mary, which had been pleasant but nothing more.

On the other hand, how could he miss something he didn't even know? Even though his parents had taken good care of him, the atmosphere at home had never been warm.

Mary had introduced Philip to her parents only shortly before the wedding, as if she had suspected that at least her mother would oppose the match. Of course he hadn't been enough. A pilot without fortune was no suitable match for a Mary Argyle. Yet Mary, who never raised her voice and usually conceded, remained adamant. She would marry him and no one else.

Philip took another swallow of whiskey, then put down the glass disgustedly on the little table beside him. He used to savor the quietness and solitude, but now… He had enough money, but what was he supposed to do with it? Mary's share of the trust fund had transferred into his possession, which had made him a wealthy man. This was what he had always wanted, wasn't it?

The house was quiet. The cleaning lady would be back tomorrow, but until then he'd be alone. She hardly uttered a word, but he always heard her steps, how she rattled with the dishes, filled her bucket and pushed it across the floor.

Now he didn't even have access to pills, nor did he own a weapon. Should he drink himself to death? What a prospect! The library was the most beautiful spot in the house; not only because he liked to look down into the garden. Here he didn't feel the solitude as much, even when he was alone. The shelves not only held valuable leather-bound books intended to convey the impression of quiet luxury Mary had loved so much. There were also books Philip had come to cherish; on some days they managed to shake him out of his lethargy, making him wonder whether they were in fact the reason why he had stopped looking for ways to put an end to his life.

A little book with a now shabby burgundy cover was lying on the small coffee table. Philip reached for it; he didn't need a book mark for the book fell open at the same spot. Poems, the poem!

Words, and yet so much more than words. Reading it had been a blow for him: Philip Durrant and poems – in the past, he would have deemed it ridiculous. His gaze slid over the words until everything became blurred and the book dropped from his fingers. Damn! What had become of him? A sentimental cripple who cried reading a poem! Maybe it was the alcohol after all. Philip took up the glass, ran over its surface, looked into the amber liquid. The light of the lamp was refracted in the facets of the glass, beautifying it, rendering it harmless. Then he finally did hurl it against the wall.

He was tired, simply tired, yet he bent down and picked up the poetry book. Smoothing the pages, he began to read once more. Why should he go to bed anyway? He wouldn't be able to fall asleep but lie awake for hours. There had been times when he had observed the sunrise from the library window. He turned the page. Strange, why had he never noticed this poem before? He was positive of having read the book sufficiently to be familiar with every single poem. He leafed a few pages back… they were blank. What did that mean?