Blood. Not just the blood but the
amount of blood.
It was the first thing that brought her to a sudden halt. It was the first thing that made Katherine Knight gasp for air and put her hand on her mouth as if it was going to ease the shock that she was about to lay her eyes on. Her eyes traced the trail of the blood until they reached the source of where it was coming from. She froze at seeing the lifeless body of her husband. It was sprawled next to broken pieces of the porcelain flower pot his facial expression uncharacteristically blank. His eyes stared at the clear sky they still had life in them almost as if Lamar was as shocked as his wife at what had just happened. Benjamin was standing frozen where he was too not knowing what to do or say.
“What happened?” Katherine managed to mutter. No tears left her eyes. It was as if she was numb to the whole thing; like it was one of those hyperrealistic dreams and someone would shake her until she woke up.
“Katherine I’m so sorry…”
“What happened Benjamin?”
“I received a text saying we should meet here. I thought it was you but when I got here and found out that it was him I dismissed him. He was furious he thought I was having an affair with you. I tried to explain the nature of our relationship to him but he wouldn’t hear any of it. It seemed the more I tried to explain the angrier I made him. So instead of going around in circles I told him to go and calm down. I walked away and the next thing I knew he was on top of me punching me endlessly. I begged him to stop but when he grabbed the flower pot I knew he was going to kill me. He tried to smash my head with it I dodged and in a panic we each grabbed one of the broken pieces and I managed to stab him first” Benjamin said “It was self-defence Katherine you have to believe me. If I didn’t defend myself I would be the one lying there. He gave me no choice he was like an animal.” He’d cooked up the best version of the events he could under the circumstances and given that his side of the story was the only side that mattered at this point he was willing to say and do anything to make sure that Katherine believed him. It was a good thing that he really was in a fight with Lamar because his swollen upper lip corroborated his version of events. But whether or not Katherine would buy his story was up for debate. He observed her and she was cold unmoved by the sight of her dead husband. Apart from the expected initial shock that Benjamin saw in her when she first saw the body she was now stoic and as expressionless as Lamar himself. Benjamin didn’t know what to make of this. He didn’t know if she was feeling anger pain or disappointment but most importantly he didn’t know if those feelings whatever they may be were directed at him or Lamar. “You have to believe me Katherine. There was nothing else –”
“I believe you” she replied her eyes still fixated on Lamar.
“You… you do?” Benjamin asked.
“I barely know you Benjamin. I don’t know what you’re capable of and I don’t know if you’re telling me the truth right now. But what I do know is that Lamar is capable of all the things you said he did. His temper was bound to lead him to this point. You said he was like an animal when he attacked you I know that animal very well I’ve been married to it for years and I’ve slept next to it every night. So yes I believe you.”
Benjamin was neither a religious man nor an atheist but the only way he could describe this turn of events was that it was a miracle. He was certain that Katherine would panic and call the cops on him yet here she was even calmer than him. It was almost as if she was in on the whole thing. “What are you doing? Who are you calling?” Benjamin asked as he saw Katherine dialling a number on her phone.
“I’m calling my dad. If there’s anyone who can fix this it’s him.”
Benjamin hurried to her and gently removed the device from her ear staining it and Katherine’s eggshell coloured hands with Lamar’s blood. Katherine quickly wiped it off on her red dress. “No you can’t do that.”
“Why? Would you rather I called the cops?”
Benjamin paused “Why aren’t you calling them? Why are you helping me Katherine?” The non-believer in him came to life. This was too good to be true. Why would Katherine a kind woman with charities and a family help him cover her husband’s murder so easily? What was he missing? He’d missed something before by thinking he was ahead and that lead him to this point. He wasn’t making that mistake again. “Why are you helping cover up the murder of the father of your children?”
“You said so yourself it’s not a murder it was self-defence or did I miss something?”
“You’re a good man Benjamin. You’ve been nothing but helpful to me and my family since I met you. And if we’re being honest you wouldn’t be in this position if you hadn’t met me. In a way I’m partly responsible for this mess. So please let me help you” Katherine said.
“Fine but we can’t call your father. I haven’t gained his full trust or respect yet something like this would completely change the way he sees me forever.”
“What do you suggest we do? We can’t stand here all day. Miracle’s homecoming dinner is about to start in an hour.”
“We have two options we either move the body bury it somewhere and hope nobody finds it. That will be almost impossible given that it’s broad daylight and both of our cars are in front of the mansion. That leaves us with one option I have to go home and you’ll go to the party and tell everyone I had some business –”
“No Benjamin” Katherine interrupted him “Absolutely not. You’re not letting me go in there and face everyone on my own.”
“Nobody knows what happened” Benjamin knew she was right because the last thing he wanted to do was to go in there and face everyone. He was tired and thrown off his game. He needed to go home rest and strategise his next moves. He needed to asses the events that took place and figure out all the loopholes and obstacles that he needed to overcome. The last thing he needed now was to be smiling and acting like nothing happened when his entire world was on the brink of crumbling.
“I don’t care you’re not leaving me alone with this Benjamin” Katherine’s eyes started to well up with tears. “My father will see right through me and once he asks about Lamar he’ll know something’s wrong no matter what I tell him. You’re not going anywhere. You’ve just killed my husband the least you can do is stay by my side.”
“Okay okay I’m sorry. You’re right I wasn’t thinking straight. I’ll go and freshen up and come back in an hour. It’ll be like I never left.” Thoughts of X telling him to skip the country and start a new life in a remote island with no extradition laws started to creep into his mind. This was becoming overwhelming even for him he had so many lies to keep up with. If Katherine let him out of her sight he doubted if he’d be able to come back.
“Benjamin Leno listen to me when I tell you that you are not leaving me alone with this. You’ll go and freshen up in my room. Lamar has… Lamar had plenty of suits he hadn’t worn in a while. You’ll put on one of those and no one will notice a thing. I’m not letting you out of my sight until this is fixed” Katherine said.
Benjamin brushed his short hair in frustration “Okay we’ll go in there and pretend nothing happened. When someone discovers his body we will be the most shocked people in the room. And you will scream and cry like a loving wife. Can you do that? Because if not we might as well call the cops now.”
“I can do it” Katherine replied without hesitation.
Benjamin and Katherine immerged from Katherine's bedroom an hour later. Katherine had changed her red dress for an olive one while Benjamin now adorned a slightly ill-fitting grey suit that belonged to the man he'd just killed an hour ago. They arrived at the Knights' dining room and were both relieved to see that it was occupied by mainly family members.
"Remember to stay calm. They don't know anything" Benjamin whispered to Katherine.
"That's easy for you to say. They won't be asking you where he is."
They were approached by a casually dressed Richard Knight. His silver hair was carefully and neatly combed back. His neatly trimmed grey beard with white streaks was a stark contrast with his fit physique and erect posture.
"Benjamin Leno how kind of you to join us
"It's a pleasure to be here" Benjamin replied briefly.
"Has Miracle arrived yet? I haven't seen her all morning". Katherine changed the subject.
"I think she's still finishing up. You know your sister when it comes to standing in front of the mirror. Where's Lamar? He said he had something urgent to discuss with me" asked Richard.
Katherine's heart pounded. The question reminded her of going bungee jumping she'd expected it but she was still scared of facing it. "Uhm I... I haven't seen him since this morning."
"What do you mean you haven't seen him since this morning? He's your husband."
"I was his wife dad not his babysitter. I don't micromanage life" Katherine snapped under pressure.
Benjamin gritted his teeth immediately at realizing the mistake Katherine had just made. He was hoping Richard hadn't picked it up but knowing the man as little as he did he knew there was very little chance of that.
"He was your husband?" Richard had picked it up.
"What?" Katherine replied.
"You referred to him in the past tense. Is there something I should know about?"
Katherine's face paled it was now the colour of raw chicken skin.
"Babe Miracle is here" Richard’s twenty-five-year-old girlfriend interrupted.
Richard turned to her. "I'm in the middle of something now sweety I'll be there in a minute."
"No Richard. It's bad enough that you forced her to come here you can't keep her waiting" she insisted.
Katherine had never been more glad to see her let alone agree with her.
Richard reluctantly nodded his head before saying "Come and see me at my study first thing tomorrow morning."
"You see what I meant? He can see right through me just like I said he would" Katherine said to Benjamin.
"You need to calm down. He's not psychic he won't just sniff it out and read your mind. The only way he will know is if one of us tells him the truth."
"You clearly don’t know my dad. Let's go and join everyone." They both made their way to the dinner table.
The food on the table was abundant enough to host a Christmas dinner for an army. Every meat vegetable salad and dessert was expertly placed on the long table. The cutlery looked expensive enough to root the poorest of families out of poverty. Everything about the Knights was the personification of opulence the pinnacle of luxury and the perfect example of generational exorbitant wealth.
Richard Knight tapped a gold fork on his wine glass and rose to his feet towering over everybody around him. "Today is a special day for this family. We find ourselves in the presence of friends and family to celebrate or should I say to appreciate the safe return of my youngest daughter Miracle. The vacuum that your absence left in this family is one I haven't felt since your mother passed away. I'm not a man whose name is usually associated with fear but I feared every night that you were gone. I feared what those savages who took you away from us would do to you. But in true Knight fashion you refused to assume the role of the victim. You rose above your circumstances. You improvised adapted and overcame. I'm proud to have you as a daughter that I'm not ashamed to admit. And I know you will not like the sound of this but I will track down those bastards who had the audacity to take you away from me and when I do..." Richard paused. "Let's just say I’ll make sure they know I don't like being made a fool out of. Everyone in this table is here because they love and adore you. Everyone on this table is here because in their own way they did what they could to make sure that you returned home safe. I love you Miracle. I love you Katherine...." he turned to his son Maxwell whom his relationship with could be described as tumultuous at best. "And you Maxwell” he said dryly before turning to Miracle “Miracle maybe you could say a few words?”
Miracle rose reluctantly from her seat. She shared a stark resemblance with her sister even though Katherine held all the beauty in the family. She appeared dazed and disoriented “I’m grateful to be back with all of you. I love you too dad Maxwell Katherine I don’t know where Lamar is but I love him too and to all of you who took your time…” her speech faded as her eyes met with Benjamin’s “I’m sorry who are you? I don’t think I’ve met you before.”
“I’m Benjamin Leno I’m a friend of your sister’s” Benjamin said silently praying that X didn’t say anything that would incriminate him.
Miracle rose her shaking index finger slowly and pointed it at Benjamin “Your voice sounds familiar what did you say your name was?”
Benjamin turned to Katherine then back to Miracle “Leno Benjamin Leno.”
“You’re lying I know that voice. I heard that voice every morning in the warehouse where I was held. You’re one of my kidnappers. You’re here to take me away…”
“Miracle you need to calm down. Benjamin was the one who hired the team who helped –”
“Liar I know that voice” Miracle screamed frantically as she backed away from the table. If fear had a face it would resemble that of Miracle at that moment and so would madness. “You kidnapped me. You took me away from my family and now you want to take me again.” She shook her head repeatedly as tears rolled down her small face.
“Miracle baby you must get some rest” Richard intervened and signalled for one of the maids to come and fetch her “Take her to her old room and make sure she gets some rest. Sweetheart I’ll call your doctor so long and see if he can’t prescribe anything for you. Come on sweetheart go and get some rest.”
The maid grabbed her hand and gently walked her out of the room. All this time Miracle’s teary eyes never left Benjamin as she mumbled “I know that voice I know that voice I know…”
Richard turned to everyone “I’m really sorry about that folks it’s all my fault. The doctor warned me that she would have some post-traumatic stress episodes. That’s probably one of them. I didn’t mean to force things I just wanted to make her feel at home and know that we’re all here” he said before shrugging his shoulders and walking out of the room.
Richard and everybody else may have thought that Miracle was having an episode but one man in the room almost had his heart stop. Because that man knew that that wasn’t an episode but a close call. That man knew he’d overstayed his welcome with the Knights and had dodged two life-threatening bullets in the space of hours. That man was Benjamin Leno and he was now certain he had to distance himself from the Knights.