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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

CHAPTER 21

Molly was having a cup of tea and watching “Casablanca” on television.  She loved the film and reckoned that she had seen it at least fifty times.  She knew it off by heart.  Even though she was alone, she sometimes said the lines out loud in tandem with the characters.  It was her comfort movie and she was delighted when it was shown.  There was something about black and white that added atmosphere to the story and she was horrified some years ago when she read that someone was trying to use computers to turn it into a colour film.  She did not mind progress but she did object to meddling.  She thought Ingrid Bergman was beautiful and Bogart, rough looking and not handsome at all, had a special charisma to carry off his portrayal of the roguish Rick.  But it was Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo, the rebel hero, who hade her heart flutter.  Now, he was a tall, dark, handsome man with a very sexy East-European accent.  Even though she was an old woman, Molly still had delicious fantasies.
She loved this kind of afternoon.  She felt safe in Maple Court and happy in her own company.  She liked the fact that Jonathan seemed to be a kind man and she assumed that he would be there for her in the event of an emergency.  She had seen his daughter once or twice, a pleasant girl, well brought up with good manners and respect for her elders.  The three students worried her because most students worried her.  They were perfectly nice on the landing but she wondered what they got up to behind closed doors with all that sex and drugs stereotype stuff that was in the Daily Mail.  She wondered why she still bought the Daily Mail, but surrendered to her conclusion that it was the best of a bad lot.  She was suspicious of the woman who ran the delicatessen but was not sure why.  She seemed to have a high opinion of herself, although she came across as friendly but a aloof, perhaps not wanting to get too close or too involved with neighbourly things, a bit stuck-up in her facial expressions.  Molly knew that her husband had left for some reason and maybe that was why she kept herself to herself.  The return of Mrs Montague was interesting enough with her young man in tow.  Molly wondered how that must be affecting Jonathan and his daughter and then stopped herself from pondering too long as it was none of her business.  She just hoped that nothing ruined the general calmness of Maple Court.  She hated friction and bitterness amongst people.
Molly didn’t mind Jonathan’s book project but she felt he was becoming a little pushy, encouraging her to remember too much too quickly.  She liked to take her time, to let one memory trigger off another.  She wasn’t going to let the book become a burden to her.  She wanted it to be a pleasure to recall the happy times in her life, despite running the risk that every now and again some sadnesses would creep in.  She was determined not to tell him every detail.  Some things, she maintained to herself, were private to her and her alone.  She wasn’t even interested in any money that might be made from a book.  It was just nice to be able to talk about days gone by and feel that her life had been worthwhile in many ways.  Of course, she was aware of mistakes and wasted time but the good things outweighed the bad, the sincere loving relationships outnumbered the jack-the-lads and chancers, those nasty individuals that infest the entertainment world, looking for a quick fumble.  Some of them were “cheeky chappies”, harmless enough, wet-behind-the-ears types but others were sly and mean and showgirls had to be tough enough behind the performing smiles to slap them down if they got too fresh with their intentions.  The one incident that Molly would never reveal to Jonathan or to anyone else was the time she helped her friend Sadie to get rid of a body.
Sadie was a dancer and together with Molly they formed a sort of on-the-road bond, looking out for each other, sharing digs, buy each other little treats on birthdays, mending each other’s stage costumes and so on.  But Sadie, unlike Molly, had a taste for some of the rougher men and boys.  She said she liked the excitement and no strings approach to having a good time.  But one night, she came back to the boarding house in a right state, blood running from her nose, her blouse sleeve ripped and the early stages of a nasty looking bruise on her cheek.  As it turned out, Sadie had been out for a drink with a lad called Brian and when they left the pub, Brian took Sadie’s hand and guided her into an alley where they kissed and cuddled for a few minutes.  Suddenly, from out of the darkness, some men grabbed Brian and beat him to a pulp.  Then they turned to Sadie and one of them grabbed her arm, slapped her head and punched her several times in the face.  Sadie said that all the time he was growling something about Brian getting what was coming to him.  Then the rough man told Sadie to pick up a brick and hit Brian with it.  She was so frightened for her life that, after hesitating, she slammed a brick into Brian’s head several times.  When she had finished, she turned round but the men had disappeared.  She looked at Brian and knew he was dead.  She had killed him, murdered him.  After calming Sadie down, Molly told her that they had to get rid of the body.  So that is what they did, in the early hours of the morning.  Both of them carried Brian’s corpse to the nearby canal and threw him in, along with the bloody brick.  It was all too horrible for Sadie but nearly half a century on, no one has ever tracked Molly down.  She heard that Sadie had died a few years ago and she reconfirmed to herself that Brian’s death had to remain a secret forever, no matter how much it niggled away at her conscience.  

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