Marcus' body was still swinging at early dawn, and his rat audience had departed. The pool of blood had stained the oak stage, seeping into the grain. The early scurrying of the theatre maids was heard by those alive. The constant clanging of steel buckets, the crashing of water was heard by the actors and actresses, awaking from their dreams another day, same problems.
The maid often took the route through the stalls and circles to the dressing rooms, when they saw Marcus. The maids stood frozen then one of them screamed dropping her bucket of water. Staring at the deformed body that was once a human being. Monsieur Artoir stormed into the auditorium "Be careful with those, or you will pay for them out of your..." he stopped in mid-sentence as he caught a glimpse of Marcus swinging by his wrists, and dislocated shoulders. Not surprisingly he remained calm and in control "Go and fetch Claudia. Then bring a knife and some ladders." He constantly stared at the body trying to work out the reason for Marcus taking his life; he remembered the beatings, the rape then throwing me out onto the streets. Claudia strutted in head held high and enraged for the fact that she was awaken early. She saw her son's body being cut down from the ceiling and placed on the stage boards; then she did something no one expected, she cried. Falling at her son's side in hysterical tears, his shoulders were clinging to his body by only a thin layer of skin and his eyes bulging and red. His body looked like it had been strung up on a gibbet.
A congregation of actors and actresses, managers and maids encircled the mother and child in arms. The word ‘SORRY' had crusted over and started to cause confusion. What was he sorry for? Claudia stroked back his long fringe while her other hand held his. She felt the crumpled piece of paper and released it from his dead, cold fingers. "Jacque?" Claudia handed Monsieur Artoir the crumpled bloodstained paper; Monsieur Artoir read it aloud.
"This foul drug has led me to murder. Mary will not love me for the sins I have committed. Jacqueline's body is in the Seine. I take my own life through depression and hate. Years of abuse have driven me to this. Tell Mary I take her love to my grave, her thoughts, her touch, her soul."
Everyone fell silent no one dared to breath. Minutes passed until Monsieur Artoir spoke, "Put his body in one of the stage coffins. Now!" some strong boys carried him of out of the auditorium and Monsieur Artoir picked Claudia up of the stage and told her to spend the day in her dressing room. He paused for thought looking around the stage "Go and tell Mary, she ought to know that Marcus is dead. Bring her back to the theatre." so two workers ran out of the theatre as the others stood in silent.
I was at the bar of the tavern, sprawled over the top with a bottle of wine clasped in one hand; I must have spent the night there. It's never crowded, first thing in the morning, the prostitutes would come into warm themselves with gin. The two workers barged through the doors and came towards me "Mary. Mary wake up!" I came around, my eyes were red and tired, "Get the girl a cup of coffee." one of them said, as the other carried me to a small table in the corner. Once I drank my coffee I felt more awake but not alert; "Mary its about Marcus." those words struck me like a knife, and I didn't want to know what he was about to tell me "He's dead Mary. Killed himself." I froze and I broke down, one of the men wrapped his arm around me and I cried into his shirt; then I pulled out a packet of cocaine to calm myself. "How did he do it?" "Cut up his body then hung himself via his wrists; behind his back." a mental image of how he took his own life appeared in my mind's eye and I ran up the stairs crying, slammed the door of my room and cried holding Josephine. The two men wandered in and sat on the edge of my bed, Monsieur Artoir wants you to come back to the theatre, and you can see Marcus there." I sat up and the other man fetched me my black cloak after I changed into my only black dress. Then I was escorted to the theatre and walked through the doors entering purgatory. Monsieur Artoir stood in the great hall "Mary. Marcus' body is in the cellar. This is the note he left."
I walked down to the cellar alone, silent tears crawling down my cheeks grasping the note in my hands. The cellar hadn't changed; the only thing that stood out was the oak coffin on the bed. I walked to the coffin, square and true and peered over the edge. His face was white and bloated; his bruises were healed but the scars still there.
I ran my fingers slowly over each letter of the word ‘sorry' and whispered delicately to him "I'm sorry too." I unfolded the note and read the script through the tears in my eyes. I thought of Claudia, the way he described her. I knew she was guilty of her son's suicide, in fact, she was guilty of his murder, and she had killed him through years of abuse and disownment, allowing him to go astray turning to drugs and alcohol to escape reality.
I spent the whole day in the cellar, refusing to see anyone. I lit a fire in the centre of the room and began sorting through his things. But there were no things to sort out, only a few ripped shirts and blunt razors. On the black walls of the cellar was a sparkling reflection coming from the coffin. I walked over and saw my engagement ring sparkling on Marcus' finger, I picked up his hand to remove the ring and under his arm was his cutthroat razor, with fresh blood dried along the blade, this was the razor he used and I was clenching it in my fist in anger. Then I dropped it when a power inside of me scared me, the urge to murder those guilty of his death. Revenge was the forbidden fruit of the theatre, and one, which will taste so sweet once bitten but once the fruit is eaten it can never re-grow, and the poison stays in your system for eternity.
I had to receive justice for his death, for years of suffering. I sliced the palm of my hand with the same blade and swore revenge with my own blood. Monsieur Artoir marched, aloof down the steps "You can come back at any time Mary. But Claudia wants to see her son." Claudia walked in eyes red with tears, and standing over the coffin stroking his cheek pretending to care; "He was led astray. You poisoned his mind." she stuttered "You abused him, and forced us to part." I said in pure malice "I did it for his benefit; the boy was wayward and needed discipline." "He needed love, not punishment!" we stared at one another, our eyes filled with hate. I despised Claudia now more than ever pretending to love her son in yet I know that she hated him and I was the only one who made him feel special. I left Claudia alone with the corpse of her son; I spoke with Monsieur Artoir at the theatre doors "I will speak with the vicar, to have the funeral next week. Until then you may see him at any time."
Everyday I visited Marcus, bringing fresh flowers to his coffin replacing the old for new. There were no flowers laid by his mother. Secretly I spent every night in the cellar, protecting his body Angelus ad Corpus. I missed him more than anything else I had every missed before, it was however the first time I had missed a human being, I never missed my mother or father and I hated my uncle. I felt so alone I could never love another man the way I loved him and now he was taken from me and never to be replaced.
The day of the funeral arrived quickly; the icy January morning was perfect for my state of mind. I wore my black cold dress with the secret knowledge that I was wearing the red suspenders; it was the only way I could commemorate his memory without anyone noticing. The vicar looked stood solemnly at the head of the grave and gave his sermon "Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of Marcus Desir. He was a simple boy who died before his time. He didn't live a life of expense and learned to accept the simple things in life...." the words of the vicar drowned out of my mind I couldn't listen to them knowing that very word was a lie, he continued to mumble a dreary prose. I glanced around the congregation it was small but significant. There was Monsieur Artoir supporting Claudia who was standing somber behind a black net veil to hide her emotionless face, clutching a white handkerchief. All I could do was stand, cry and remember. I somberly looked at the rest of the assembly a few actors and maids; but standing at the gate of the church was a man I had never seen before, but I recognized him, the man in Marcus' photo. Across the graveyard, I felt his eyes scanning our every move, analyzing every emotion. Then he went away and was never seen again.
After the funeral, I shut myself away with a bottle and a packet. Looking at the blade shinning on my table. I remembered my oath and now that Marcus was six foot under the ground it would have been the perfect time to carryout the deed, the problem was all the other dressing rooms and the concern of someone overhearing. However, there were still questions at the back of my mind kept on asking me does anyone really deserve to die and is murder the way to receive justice? I ignored this feelings by remembering what she had done to him it was as if the devil had captured me and will only realize me if I did what was right.
Every evening I visited his grave, and once again, I placed red roses on the dry earth. Then I walked back to the theatre to sit in solitude in the cellar re calling blissful memories. When I noticed under an old blanket was a pile of letters all from me, I read the letters slowly letting my thoughts drape over every word. As I read out of the corner of my eye I saw, Claudia walk down the steps "You miss him don't you?" "Yes. Do you?" "I don't miss him as much as you. But he was my son." "Then why did you beat him?" "Because of his father. When he first met his father, I was being attacked. Marcus stood and watched." "You beat him for something that happened when he was a child." "I suppose I know how to bear a grudge." I couldn't bear to listen any more, she didn't know how to forgive anyone, and she never felt guilty for what she did to him. I walked back up to the graveyard to kneel at his side.
Claudia was guilty and she had to pay the price. The only problem was; how do you punish someone properly, who had committed sin for years and years. I laid in my bed staring aimlessly at the ceiling picturing how I wanted to kill her, numerous thoughts ran through my mind, everything from poisoning her vin blanc to tying a noose around her neck and pulling vigorously on the rope enjoying every pitiful scream while waiting for her neck to break. Poisoning her would be to kind. Eventually I came to a decision I knew how the deed was to be done and I would not regret doing it, just picturing it made me feel full of justice for Marcus.
I sharpened my weapon and placed it in my purse. Spending the day locked away in a dressing room until it was midnight. When I heard the clock strike twelve I crept out of my room and wrapped my red cloak around my shoulders and pulled the hood up, clutching a single rose in my hand, the engagement ring sparkling in the light. I took the back allies to the church, the moonlight shined on his grave and carefully outlined the letters on the granite, the words said "Here lies Marcus Desir aged 18 years" that was all, Monsieur Artoir showed how much he cared for Marcus by cutting the price of the gravestone and its position in the church. I carefully caressed each letter and I felt belonged, and a part of him. A divine shiver ran down my spine as I thought of him when he was alive. I place the single rose on the grave and threw the old ones aside. I remember thinking to myself why was it him who had to go? Why is it always the good and innocent who die so young? Then I left his grave and began walking back to the Grand Guignol. I took the route along the Seine, when I heard raised voices from the other side of the embankment; I heard the words of a fisherman, and "How long has she been dead?" "About a week." another shouted. I watched from the other side of the bank and watched them pull the dead girl's body out of the river; I recognized by her by her long black hair, it was Jacqueline. I felt no regret for her death; she probably deserved it for what she did to me and Marcus. 20 minutes later, I arrived at the theatre doors. The outside reflected the evil within those walls and the evil inside me. Pushing those doors open and hearing, them bang shut made me realize that once I was in I couldn't turn back.
However before I went to Claudia's dressing room, I walked into the stalls and onto the stage. The bloodstain from where Marcus was cut down had been absorbed into the wood leaving a dry crimson, body shaped stain in the grain. Then I took my cloak of and placed it over the stain for reasons I don't know it just seemed right. I walked to Claudia's room my purse grasped in my hand, when I reached her door I pulled out my weapon and held it behind my back running my thumb along it, then I knocked. "Entr" said Claudia expecting it to be a maid bringing her roses from that nights audience "Oh its you." she said in an arrogant tone looking at my dirty dress, "What do you want?" "Nothing." I answered; "I was just lonely." she looked at me emotionless; she was not even wearing a black dress to show her mourning. "Have a glass of wine then child." I poured the clear alcohol into a fine crystal glass, allowing it to settle before sipping it slowly, by this time I had hidden my weapon from her sight. We sat in silence for a while before I spoke again, "I have been down to the church. It looks so pretty in the moonlight." Claudia made no comment instead she was quite content in brushing her auburn hair, "But what I still don't understand is...why did he kill himself? He must have had a reason." at that point Claudia turned around to face me "Oh he had his reasons. He was addicted to drugs and killed that pitiful girl Jacqueline." I didn't believe her reasons for her son's suicide he wasn‘t a murderer and he promised me he would stop using opium. Instead, I countered her argument "Nothing then to do then with your loveless mothering, and unsympathetic attitude towards him." "I see what you think of me... and you are correct. I didn't love my son he held back my career. You don't think I enjoy singing at this awful place. I wanted to sing at the Comie- Franise, but I had a child to bring up. But you wouldn't know about my struggles." "That was still no reason for hurting him. Your constant abuse towards him forced him to kill himself, not because of the murder of an inane girl like Jacqueline." then Claudia swiped me across the face then continued brushing her hair. She had never stuck out against me and now anger began to enrage me further then I brought out the same cutthroat razor, which Marcus used, then stood behind her hate glowing in my eyes. Fury had boiled inside my heart and now it was ready to be released, I pulled her hair back and slashed the razor against her gullet and threw her head back onto the dressing table. My hands were stained red showing guilt but a great relive from all that anger cleared my conscience. Just as I turned towards the door, I walked back to Claudia's body her blood had spread across the whole table and was dripping onto the cream carpet and lace cloth that draped over the oak table, subsequently I ran my index finger through the warm blood and wrote three times on her dressing room mirror the words "MARCUS. MARCUS. MARCUS." then I left her there taking the key with me and locking the door behind me, leaving her lying there dead.
With the razor still in my hand, I ran back to my dressing room, and slammed the door behind me. I scrubbed my hands clean until my skin was dry and chapped then I cleaned the blade and settled down to sleep in peace and harmony.
The next morning I awoke reasonably early some of the actors were up and smoking on the landings, everyone was acting normally no one had yet noticed that Claudia was still ‘asleep'. I strolled to the churchyard and buried the razor in Marcus' grave. After I buried the razor, and told Marcus what I had done for him I walked slowly back to the theatre. The whole theatre was still relaxed no one was in a hurry to start rehearsals, but on the way back to my dressing room, I saw across the landing Monsieur Artoir tapping at Claudia's door. Hastily I entered my room and locked the door listening at the oak panels, within the hour the sound of commotion at Claudia's door steadily increased and still I did not join them.Ten minutes later, I heard something banging against her door, trying to force it open at every blow on the wooden panel I trembled. Eventually they broke it down and I held my breath when one of the actors shouted "Good God! She's dead!" Monsieur Artoir walked in to evaluate the extent of the injuries, his eyes automatically drawn to the words ‘Marcus. Marcus. Marcus.' that had now merged into one and dried on the cool surface. Monsieur Artoir stared at the words for about a minute before he ordered the removal of her body, then calling my name; but I had already climbed out of my window and ran to the church. Monsieur Artoir ordered a search team to find me. The party searched every tavern and every brothel in Montmartre until they reached the graveyard where Marcus was buried. They stood at the foot of his grave removing their workers hats. They expected me to be at the grave, but as they began to turn back, one of them noticed the metallic shimmer of the razor buried in the ground. He pulled out the blade and looked around the graveyard superstitiously then he saw a faint shadow in the stain glass window "The Church" he said and the men ran in and saw me sitting in one of the pews, preying silently. The man who sat beside me was the same man who told me Marcus was dead, "There's no point in hiding Mary. Everyone knows it was you, so you can't run." I simply sat letting the words enter my mind but I was more focused on the brass crucifix on the alter table. "You have to face with what you've done Mary." "I have to live with what I've done" I said, "Do you really think that by killing Claudia, it will bring Marcus back?" "No. Nothing is going to bring him back. But at least he can now rest in peace knowing that the woman who killed him is dead." I said through my tears. "Jacqueline's body was found. You do know that Marcus killed her. He was also a murderer Mary and now you are." I didn't answer, but he was right I realized there and then I was no better than Claudia, I could even be perceived as worse. Suddenly without warning, he picked me up and escorted me back to the theatre. Everyone was standing in a circle in the great hall, like a parliament of judges, deciding my fate without hearing my motives. I looked at them unemotional and pitiless standing by, my motive was her death was justice, not homicide. Monsieur Artoir called everyone away; to return to their work they departed with tears in their eyes and with arms around each other's shoulders. He stood tall over me and raised his arm in the direction of his office. I walked in and he followed, with his shadow crawling over me as I walked, a sense of dread filled me with anticipation. Either one of ours fates will be decided in this room or more than likely it was going to be mine. I walked in to the smell of leather, alcohol and cigarettes. I heard the door shut and the lock turn, caught and confined by the puppeteer's strings of lies and deciding actions.