Episode 18. The Meeting

I was a little nervous. Tonight would be Markus’ and my third date and I had invited him here since Emma claimed she worked late. Although I suspected that she too had a date. But I had just played along. I figured she’d tell me all about it if it went well, or if it went very badly. I was making dinner for us, and I hoped we take a trip in the motor boat in the summer evening. Mica was laying down and observing me, hoping I’d either give him some food, or accidentally drop some. For dessert, I wanted to make a raspberry Pavlova, but however much I tried, my meringue refused to get crispy.
I looked at my watch, and to my horror realized that Markus would be there in half an hour. And I had neither showered nor changed. Having swam in sea water for the past three days; my hair was stiff and unruly and just needed a wash. I turned down all hobs on the cooker and went upstairs. Mica followed, disappointed at not having gotten anything and to see what I was up to.
Twenty minutes later, I was showered and dressed, but my hair was still wet. I decided to leave it. Make-up was more important. As I went over to the dressing table, I saw the messenger icon blinking on my phone. I pressed on it absent-mindedly while I rummaged through my make-up bag for primer and foundation. I assumed the message would be from Melissa or some of my other London friends, but when I looked to see, it felt like my stomach was plummeting down towards my feet.
“I’ll be in the magic forest at 9PM. Be there. Do us both a favour. You can’t escape anymore.”
I sighed. Why did my ex stepfather have to ruin my evening like that? I did not of course intend to go to the magic forest. He couldn’t force me to do anything. I was innocent and he only wanted to torment me.
“You have to go,” said a small, nagging voice in my head. And deep in my heart I knew the voice was speaking the truth.
Luckily Markus was ten minutes late this time. I am an expert at putting on my make-up very fast, so that also gave me time to blow dry my hair a little bit. When I opened the door to him, he kissed me briefly on the lips before handing me an exclusive looking paper bag. “You told me you love Prosecco, so I brought some. And some chocolate as well. Lindt.”
I smiled and thanked him and gestured for him to come inside. Mica was standing shyly behind me, and Markus bent down to pat him. Mica sniffed him tentatively and apparently decided that he was accepted, because he waved his tail.
“And for you little fellow,” said Markus. “I brought some doggy treats.”
He produced a bag out of a plastic bag and put it down in front of Mica.”
“Give him one,” I said.
Markus opened the bag and Mica greedily ate the two treats Markus gave him.
“You’re friends for life now, I said.
“It smells lovely,” he said as we entered the kitchen.
“I hope you’ll like the food. Unfortunately, the Pavlova I planned for dessert didn’t work out so well.”
He came over to where I was standing by the cooker and put his arms around me.
“I know something that’s better than Pavlova,” he said. “Only if it’s cool with you,” he added quickly.
“You mean the Lindt?” I said teasingly. He slapped me playfully.
“Sure. Of course I mean the Lindt. What did you think?”
I laughed and kissed him. And went to the fridge to open the wine. It was 7PM and a pretty good start to the evening.
I waited till after the dinner to show him the message. The food had tasted nice. And apart from a couple of burned wedges, the rest of the potatoes had turned out perfectly crispy.
“I really don’t want to go,” I said.
Markus looked me in the eyes, his expression was serious.
“Don’t be a coward Sandra. You have to go. The sooner you face him, the better.”
“But it’s going to totally ruin this evening,” I said. Sounding like a suborn child to my own ears.
“It’s not going to ruin everything.” He picked up his wineglass and came around to sit next to me.
“It’s a good thing he wants to see you tonight actually, because I’m here. He can’t harm you as long as there is someone else there.”
“I nodded and put my head on his shoulder.
“It’s 8PM now. Shall we try that Pavlova? I don’t think I can enjoy the other dessert you had in mind just now.”
Even with the soft meringue, the Pavlova actually tasted ok. Afterwards we cleared the table together and walked out into the summer evening.
The smell of BBQ, the laughter of people and the song of the evening birds accompanied us as we entered the path towards the magic forest. There was a chill to the evening. Or maybe I just felt cold for what was ahead. So I had put on a summer jacket. We didn’t talk much, but we held hands. And Markus occasionally squeezed my hand as if to assure me that everything was going to be ok. I would go as far as to say that with the surroundings, this evening walk would have been very romantic had it not been for the fact that I was going to face the man who had made me run away in the first place.
We could see Ramshaug now and my heart started to beat faster. I had prepared exactly what I was going to say in my head. I was gonna tell him to stop tormenting me and make it clear that I had not played any role in my mother’s death. Then I would turn around and leave. We would be back early enough to have a glass of Prosecco perhaps, and one of crazy things that were going on around me would be over.
As we got closer however, something looked as if it was terribly wrong. The torch was lit despite it not being dark outside. Like Nellevine, Ramshaug was automatic nowadays. Surely the light shouldn’t have turned itself on now.
“This is very strange,” I said pointing at the lights. “I don’t like it.”
Markus nodded. Undoubtedly strange yes.” “Do you think perhaps he could have somehow gotten access to the torch?”
“I doubt it,” Markus said. “If he lives abroad and have no relation whatsoever to the lighthouse torches, it’s very unlikely.”
As we got even closer, we could work out a figure among the trees surrounding the torch. So he had arrived. I asked Markus to stop for a moment.
I drew my breath and squeezed his hand.
“You can do it,” he said. “Go now. I’m right here.”
But as I got to the torch, I saw that my ex stepfather wasn’t waiting by the torch as I had expected. In stand, I was met by his dead body hanging limp from a tree. I felt the colour draining from my face and my knees buckle under me.
“Oh God. Oh fuck.”
I looked up to see Markus staring at the corpse. He kept repeating sear words to himself and seemed fixed to the spot.”
“Police. We need to call the police,” I said in a voice that didn’t sound like my own.
Markus just stood there staring. I rose slowly and went over to him. He didn’t look at me until I’d yanked his arm twice.
“Let’s call the police,” I repeated and took my phone out of my pocket. In that instant, I heard a sound behind me that made me turn. Nobody was there except Markus and me. No one that I could see anyway. But I had heard a twig break as if someone had stepped on it. Then, all of sudden, Ramshaug’s light went out.

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