“No amount of reasoning would sway the young idealist from his decision to reveal the truth to anyone and everyone who would listen. Yvette knew, of course, that was out of the question. She couldn’t let that happen, but the young man was adamant. What could she do?” Fedora was gazing deeply now into the orange heart of the crackling fire that warmed the study.
It was a rhetorical question, but Richard took the opportunity to answer it as Fedora paused to finish off his champagne. “She could have waited to see if the lad followed through with his threat then, if he did, released a statement herself to the Press denying everything. It would be his word against yours.”
“No good, dear boy!” Fedora countered. “You could bet those bright red underpants that the righteous little shit would have a copy on his hard drive, or he’d have mailed the story to himself as all the good reference books on writing would have you do. No, if he’d have proved the story was his it would have resulted in humiliation, embarrassment and scandal for us all, but more importantly, none of this for yours truly.” Fedora spread his arms wide, his empty champagne glass still in his hand, and looked about him.
“I think that would’ve been far easier to live with than having a murder on your hands!” Richard was becoming more exasperated by the minute. The idea of spending any time with a man like Ben Fedora grated on him, but to do so under these conditions, locked in a room trying to reason with a man who would never allow himself to admit that he could ever be wrong was almost unbearable. Richard was a captive audience, quite literally, and Fedora was loving it.
“Our hands, Richard, sweetie. Don’t forget that. We may not have actually done the deed, but we’re guilty by association, as I’m sure the good boys in blue would lose no time in pointing out.”
“I’ve already told you, I knew absolutely nothing of that young man’s death!” Richard’s frustration was beginning to develop into barely-suppressed desperation. “Christ! Even as I say it, I can’t believe I’m involved in something like this. How the hell did it get this far?”
Fedora looked at the champagne glass in Richard’s hands and began to turn pale. An ever so slightly nervous flutter rippled his voice as, smoothing the bandage on his head, he rose quickly to his feet and held out his hand. “Easy there, old boy! What’s done is done. We can’t bring the dead back, we can only decide where we go from here. Give me your glass. I’ll get us both a refill.”
Fedora took the glass from Richard and placed it next to his in his left hand while he felt for the key to the study door through a gap in his bandages with his right. As Fedora strode to the door, still effecting an air of confidence, Richard rose from his chair and began to follow him.
“No, no, Richard, dear boy,” Fedora said, unlocking the door, “I’ll get the drinks. You make yourself comfortable. Far better we continue to discuss the matter in private, don’t you think?”
“I don’t need to discuss it any further.” Richard’s voice, in contrast to that of Fedora, was now strong and resolute. “I can’t live another day with this hanging over my head. I’m going to the authorities and take whatever’s coming to me. Whatever it is, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of seeing you and that Pestis woman get your come-uppance you odious little runt.”
(to be continued)