Sunset Boulevard woke to the sound of truck engines whirring and goods being unloaded. All kinds of stuff such as home appliances, suitcases, boxes with trophies and all things usually found in a household were unloaded. The new owner of number 13, Malcom Townsend had just moved in. The neighborhood was most interested in Malcom. He had a charming aura about him, and his ’devilishly good looks’ were the talk of the townsfolk. Especially in the women’s groups. Talk of the town was that Malcom had had his heart broken by a maiden back home and he made a decision to move to Sunset Boulevard to start afresh.
Rumor has it that the maiden, going by the name of Candice, later met with an unfortunate end as her body was found in her apartment, with the neck cut open with a knife. A brutal affair it was. But it was only a rumor. And the townsfolk love to talk. It is also true among us maids. The gossip is never ending, dios mío. Nevertheless, I decided to head up to number 13 to offer my services. The conversation was quick and to the point. He said he did want a maidservant. I said I am the best in town. Said he needs someone who can cook, wash clothes and keep the house tidy. Said I’d do it 5 days a week. We talked salary and that was it. He paid extra for carrying the stuff inside, which I rejected. It didn’t feel right to take money from a gentleman like him.
After spending an hour, the house looked top-notch. I cooked him the finest Spanish dish I could prepare; the first impression must be excellent. He seemed to enjoy the food. After a quick dinner and watching a few TV shows, he asked me to prepare a hot bath for him as he felt a comfortable bath will ease his mind. I agreed. The trip must have been long and tiring. I prepared the hot bath and started cleaning up the windows as Mr. Malcom climbed into the bathtub.
“Sofía!”, he called out. “Yes, Mr. Malcom?”
“I wanted a hot bath. The water is cold. Did you check the heater?”
“Yes indeed, Mr. Malcom. I did. It was working as it always does!”
“I think it is malfunctioning. The water is cold, no doubt about it.”
I stepped up, embarrassed. After all, Mr. Malcom had draped a towel and nothing else. “Would you mind, señor, if I checked the water myself?”
“By all means”
Sure enough, the water was completely cold. Like the heater was non-existent. “I will call Mr. Banks right away, señor. Mr. Banks? He is the local electrician. Fixes things in a flash, he does señor!”
Next day Mr. Banks arrived. He first checked again to see if it was just a one time occurrence and the water again was cold. As Banks got to work, I prepared some hot tea for Mr. Malcom. An hour or so passed. Mr. Banks had now caused quite a ruckus with the heater. Nuts and bolts everywhere. Finally, after reassembling the setup he said, “Nothing is wrong with the heater sir, the problem might be in the plumbing. I suggest you call a plumber and have it all checked.”
“Of course. Thank you. Sofia, pay the man. And find a plumber will you?”
As soon as Mr. Malcom was out of earshot, Banks whispered.
“Sofía. Sofía! The heat, it… I can’t explain… will you listen…”
“Calm down señor Banks. What is it?”
“The Heat. The bathtub won’t have hot water and the room… the room temperature… it… it… it’s not right. The whole room is cold! As if never touched by a ray of sunshine!”
He was right in saying so. I too, felt cold when cleaning up the bathroom. It was a sinister feeling, like all happiness had vanished from the world. But I dismissed the thought and went on with my work. The next day the plumber arrived, and he pretty much had the same thing to offer about the problem; Absolutely nothing. And so he left. Señor Malcom had a lot to say about the incident: “You country people sure are inexperienced in your work. Not a single one of your people found the problem. But not to worry. Not to worry! My cousin Charlie will come over in a month. He’ll fix it! Hasn’t faltered uptil now!”
I wasn’t so sure While he waited for Charlie to arrive, señor Malcom had started taking baths in cold water. He didn’t care, he said. But something changed. Everyday that he took a bath, his manner became restless, as if an entity had possessed him. I wonder what it is that is troubling him?
Malcom had decided to take a bath in the cold water. It didn’t matter much anyway. As the water ran into the tub, he undressed and climbed in. Slowly, he sunk into the water and took a relaxed breath. Sheesh! What a long day it had been! He relaxed his head back and closed his eyes. Some candles and relaxing music would have been perfection. He suddenly fell into a trance, as if he had lost his senses for a while.
“You don’t understand…”
“’Hey there! How may I help you?’
A much younger Malcom stood in a pastry shop, looking for a cake to
give to his mother on her birthday.
‘Hi, I am looking for a chocolate cake for my mom. It’s her birthday tomorrow you see.’
‘Sure sir, if you would just wait a moment?’
The woman went inside, presumably to arrange for the cake.
Meanwhile, a beautiful woman walks inside. Her features catch young Malcolm’s attention. He just stares for a long time. It makes her uncomfortable. She speaks:
‘Excuse me, is there something you would like to say to me?’
‘Ah… Umm… Yeah… the…’
He musters some kind of courage. An outburst. Something he had not seen in himself before.
‘I was hoping you would like to come with me for coffee sometime’
Surprised and yet amused, she laughed but had a surprise in turn for.
‘Sure. Where and When do you want to head?’
The couple had a really good thing going. For two years they had been on good terms after which they got married with the blessings of their parents.
‘Till death do us part, they had both said.
All was good and happy, until Candice got a job as a model under a leading fashion designer’s wing.
‘There is nothing! Nothing between us! You don’t understand! Malcom please!’
But how could he understand? He had seen! Seen her going to that photographer’s house! At Midnight! And all those photo sessions! Oh what has transpired between the two! No. No. He can’t let this happen. She belongs to me! ME! NO ONE ELSE! ONLY ME!
He was not himself when he went after the Swiss knife in his pocket.
He was not himself when he sliced her neck in a murderous rage.
‘What have… What have I done! OH! Candice! CANDICE!!!!!!’”
Suddenly everything faded. All was blackness… all dark and eerily quiet.
Malcom was drowning. Water filled his lungs and he was gripped by a fear he had never known before. It is noteworthy to say that Malcom drowning is an impossibility, having been swimming champion for three years in a row at the University. Malcom used the last of his strength as he hoisted himself away from the fatal bath. As he lay on the floor choking, calling out to Sofía, only to realize that she is on holiday. He felt cold, as if something dead and lifeless is gripping him. He slowly walked off, dismissing it as a bad dream, a nightmare, and got a towel. He needed a drink. Time to open the Brandy…
Señor Malcom is definitely in trouble of some kind. I arrived home today to be greeted by a man whose skin color had turned yellow, much like Sulphur. I know all about these materials you see. My brother is an avid admirer of Mother Earth’s gifts. I opened up about it: “Señor! Your skin… it’s not right! It’s… it’s… it’s yellow!”
“Sofía, my dear, you worry too much. The country transition has certainly got to me. Don’t worry. I am alright!”
“Señor, I know a physician across the street…”
“Don’t you worry yourself dear. Now get on with the work!”
And that was the end of that. I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. Each time he took a bath he came back pale and disoriented, in a state, as if hit hard by a bat. There was something inexplicable about that room. Something I couldn’t put my finger on. Something…
Malcom was worried now. He knew for sure that the tub had something weird about it. He always felt the same thing. A trance. Followed by the dream and then drowning. And the words ’Forever’. Was she…? No. That can’t be. She’s not anymore… she can’t be… As he lowered himself into the fatal bath again, he was frightened. Now that he had replaced the tub, nothing anomalous could happen, he reassured himself. Finally, he was in. He waited. For the longest time he waited. Nothing happened. No visions no voices. Just a normal bathtub. Like any other. Nothing. He let out a sigh of relief. It was all over…
I “Dispatch, this is Hopkins from Sunset Boulevard number thirteen. 911 call about the body was made by the maid, who found the body. Vic is identified as a Malcom Townsend. Age Thirty Four. Looks like the Bloke offed himself, over.”
“Hopkins, this is Helen from HQ. We hear you loud and clear. What’s the evidence that indicates suicide, over?”
“Guy looks like a Nut Job. Drowned himself in the bathtub. Wrote the word ’Forever’ in blood on the bathroom wall”
“Any sign of forced entry? What about the Maid?”
“She alibied out. She was with a couple of her maid friends at the local bar at the time of death. Forced entry? Hold on, let me check that out for ya. HEY TENPENNY! CHECK THE DOORS…! YOU WHAT? OK! Nah. Locks are fine. There is something funny though”
“Go on Hopkins”
“He wrote the word using blood. But, here’s the thing. He don’t have cuts on his body. No bleeding, nothin’!”
“You checked DNA on the blood? Is there a match?”
“Yeah. It’s his blood alright.”
“Gory Business eh?”
“Yeah. I wonder…”