Tall Windows Full of Night
The night breeze plucked at my cassock as I trudged toward the yellow house at the top of the hill.
"Father, thank God." He met me at the bottom of the driveway, clutching a crystal glass packed to the rim with crushed ice and Scotch. A Morte Sicura blue dangled from his lips. His navy tie hung like a noose from his rumpled shirt collar. "It's so late, but I didn't know who else to call."
"Don't worry yourself. My duty to the parish runs all hours. Tell me what has you all worked up this time of night?"
"I..." He chewed on his words. "Something horrible."
"Have you crashed another car?"
"No, but I," he pulled at his hair, "I have to show you."
He led me up the drive, through the open garage door, past his stable of Teutonic sports cars--all the same Wahlpurgisnacht blue--and into the house through the kitchen door. The hard leather heels of his shoes clack-clack-clacked on the blue granite tile, the only sound in the house.
"Is your wife not home?"
He turned on me, his eyes bulging, ice rattling in the glass, Scotch sloshing over his hand. For a moment I thought he might strike me, but the mania passed across his face and his shoulders slumped. He pulled at his hair again, hard, then waved toward the stairs. "Up there."
"I'm worried," I said. "Do I need to call someone?"
"I've already called the police. But I need you to see before they arrive."
"OK," I swallowed. "Show me."
We took the stairs slowly, as if we were sneaking up on a housebreaker. As if he were afraid to make a sound and wake something at the top of the stairs.
The bedroom door stood half open, gold light spilling out across the thick white carpet. He froze at the door, so I pushed past.
The bedside lamp cast a hard yellow glare across the bed, across her legs, across her dangling arm, across her face tilted back over the foot of the bed, eyes staring wide at me where I stood just inside the doorway. Her red lips formed a perfect "O" of accusation.
On the bedside table blushing sedative tablets huddled together next to the silver ash tray. Gold satin pillows sprawled across the floor, the tip of one red shoe, matching her red leather mini-dress, peeked from under the bed. Otherwise nothing seemed out of place.
"I can perform last rites," I said, "but if she took pills, she will have to discuss it with God."
"She was strangled."
His voice was dull as lead.
"But the pills there..."
"I saw it."
"You saw someone kill her?"
He finally stepped into the room, the light painting creases across his forehead. He slumped against the wall and slid down until he sat on the floor. "No."
"Speak plainly with me."
"I saw, but in a dream. This very night." His head hung so limp that he spoke into his lap. I edged close so I could hear.
"We had an argument. She wanted to go to the Osteria. I wanted to stay here. It's been a long day, but she had made herself up and wouldn't take no for an answer. She shouted and kicked me out of the room, so I went to the kitchen and started drinking." He swirled his glass and the ice hissed. "I fell asleep downstairs. That's when I saw it, as I slept. I saw her here, a hateful pout on her lips. She looked up, at the window there, startled, but she couldn't scream because she couldn't breathe."
I was close enough to smell the whisky on his breath when he raised his head and reached up to clutch at my cassock.
"I was the one strangling her, Father. With a yellow silk cord, like the ones that tie the curtains back. You see," he pointed at the tall windows full of night, "there is one missing."
I didn't need to look to know that one of the drapes sagged across the glass.
"Are you confessing to me?"
The same wild look from the kitchen crossed his face. "No." He let go of my robes and his hand fell into his lap. "But I saw it, Father."
Sirens climbed the hill in the distance, making their way toward the house.
"The police will be here soon."
"Yes," he nodded. "I suppose they will take me away."
"Listen to me." I took his hand. "Sometimes the Lord bestows visions upon the worthy. You must be honest with the police. Perhaps there is something you saw, some clue to who did this."
"You think so, Father." He scanned my face for some scrap of hope.
"Yes." I nodded as the sirens came wailing up the driveway. "I will go let them in."
As the police wound their yellow tape across the doors and windows, I walked down the driveway. I couldn't offer them anything more than what I'd seen: a drunk husband, a dead wife, and sleeping pills. I couldn't break the sanctity of confession. The night settled around me with a slight chill and I buried my hands in my pockets. In the left I found a thick cord that felt like silk.
I didn't pull it out, but I knew it was yellow.