The closet killer

Something nasty lurked in the wardrobe...

Published by: Amy Thompson
Published on: 25th May 2010

Secrets – we’ve all got them. Even if it’s just something silly, and embarrassing, that we did a long time ago, and we’d rather no one knew about. And there’s no harm in having a few skeletons in the closet is there? Not if no one ever finds out.
But when my best mate Maria confided in me about her relationship, it wasn’t what she was hiding that was the problem. It was what her bloke had kept hidden that was causing problems – his terrible jealousy…
‘There’s nothing going on,’ she told me, over a cuppa one morning. ‘I don’t know why Vince doesn’t trust me. We’ve been together eight years and now he’s suddenly accusing me of having an affair!’
‘That’s not good,’ I frowned.
‘It’s ridiculous. I even caught him going through my mobile the other day,’ she sighed.
‘Maybe it’s a midlife crisis,’ I shrugged. ‘He’s 45 soon, right?’
‘Next Saturday,’ she smiled. ‘I wanted to throw him a party, show him how much he means to me. But he’s insisted on just a few close friends at home.’
She rolled her eyes. ‘What more can I do?’
Truth was I’d never really understood what attracted Maria to Vince. And it wasn’t just because he was 10 years older than her.
With long, dark hair and a warm smile, she was the polar opposite to his plain looks and indifferent attitude. While she was fun and outgoing, he seemed to be happier sitting indoors. She could’ve had her pick of the fellas when we went out.
Plus, there was the Christmas party incident, seven years earlier
Walking to the pub loos at the same time as Vince at our work’s do, he’d been a right state, leering over me and grabbing my bum.
I’d shoved him off and put it down to the drink. I’d even kept it quiet from Maria – she’d been so happy chatting about him at the estate agents where we worked. But I’d never been able to look at him the same way since.
As far as I was concerned, she could do a lot better – but if Maria was happy, so was I.
‘I’m sure it won’t be too bad,’ I told her, sipping my tea. ‘Put up a few banners and balloons, have some drinks. He’ll soon forget about this affair nonsense when he sees the effort you’ve gone to.’
‘I hope so,’ she sighed. ‘I really do love him.’
‘It’s not me who needs convincing,’ I chuckled.
‘Hey,’ she grinned. ‘Why don’t you come to the party? I could do with some moral support.’
My stomach lurched – a whole evening centred on Vince? Not exactly my idea of a fun night out. Besides, what if he got drunk again like that time at Christmas…
Fighting a shudder, I pasted on a smile. ‘I don’t know…’ I started.
‘Please?’ she said quietly. ‘It’ll be all his friends there talking about footy all night. I could really do with someone to chat to. You can bring Dave too.’
‘Much as I’d love to bring my fella to keep me company, he’s working away that weekend,’ I shook my head.
‘Even better,’ she beamed. ‘We can sit and gossip all night, not have to worry about the guys for a change. Please?’
‘Okay,’ I sighed. ‘I suppose I’d better go shopping for a present. Any ideas what to
get him?’
‘Hmm…anti-paranoia pills?’ she joked, grinning.
We both burst into a fit of giggles. ‘I’ll see what I can find,’ I winked.
Over the next week, I listened to all Maria’s plans for the party. Drinks, food, music… there was nothing she hadn’t prepared.
‘It’ll definitely be a party to remember,’ I told her over the phone the night before. ‘I just hope he realises how lucky he is to have you after all this.’
The line went silent. ‘Oh no,’ I groaned. ‘Is he still giving you a hard time?’
‘Yes,’ she admitted, lowering her voice. ‘But I can’t really talk right now. Things are a bit tense.’
‘Okay. Fill me in at the party tomorrow night. And I want no detail spared.’
‘Will do,’ she promised, in a more cheery tone – Vince had obviously just walked into the room. ‘Anyway, I’d better go. Lots to sort out. See you later.’
Poor Maria, here she was walking around on eggshells while Vince was throwing a tantrum over nothing.
Well, I’d be sure to set the record straight to him tomorrow. Birthday or no birthday, he couldn’t go around accusing people of things they hadn’t done, making them feel bad while they were doing everything to please him.
And I was sure he knew as well as I did that Maria wasn’t the type to cheat. The truth was obvious, he simply refused to believe it.
Next evening, I knocked on the front door and Vince answered.
‘Happy birthday,’ I smiled, handing him his presents – a blue tie and a book called Midlife Doesn’t Have to Mean Crisis. I couldn’t help feeling a little smug about that one!
‘Thanks,’ he grinned, kissing me on the cheek. ‘Come in. Maria should be back soon.’
‘Back?’ I frowned. ‘Where’s she gone?’ ‘Nipped to the shop for some more lemonade,’ he shrugged. ‘Can I take your coat?’
Handing it to him, I walked into the flat feeling awkward. But there were a few guests mingling in the kitchen, some squeezed on the sofa in the lounge.
At least I’m not totally alone with Vince, I thought, relieved.
When Maria was still nowhere to be seen half an hour later though, I started feeling narky. She’d practically begged me to come along, now here I was sitting with a load of strangers trying to make small talk while she was God knows where.
And to think I could’ve had a nice quiet evening in…
Two hours passed and Maria still hadn’t made an appearance.
Nipping to the loo for the umpteenth time, I called her mobile. It went straight to voicemail, again.
Where the hell was she? No wonder Vince thought she was having it away with someone else!
Well I’d had enough of waiting. I pulled my coat on – and overheard Vince’s friends quizzing him about Maria.
‘So where’s the missus?’ one guy asked. ‘You haven’t persuaded her to jump out of a giant cake, have you?’
Everyone laughed – except him. He gave a nervous chuckle, staring into his empty glass.
‘Come on,’ another friend jeered. ‘Where’s Maria got to? Haven’t seen her all night.’
Vince’s face went white, his hand started trembling.  He looked like he was going to throw up. How much had he had to drink?
Suddenly, the atmosphere turned tense. ‘Has something happened between you two?’ asked his friend Tanya.
Taking a deep breath, he steadied himself and said: ‘To be honest, I think it’s over between us.’
Really?! There were a few sympathetic sighs, I even felt a little sorry for him. Okay, I’d never liked him, but seeing a heartbroken bloke trying to put on a brave face isn’t nice.
‘I’d like to make a speech,’ he said. ‘I’m so happy to see you all. I’ve been looking forward to this party and thanks for your presents. Someone once told me you should do all you want to in life by the time you’re 45. I never thought much of that advice… until now.’
I stared at him. His knuckles had turned white, he was gripping his glass so tight, and beads of sweat were trickling down his forehead.
‘See,’ he continued, gulping, his voice a whisper now. ‘I probably should’ve cancelled this party and called the police after what happened last night. But I wanted to see you all one last time…’
The laughs that’d filled the room 10 minutes earlier had vanished, replaced by a deathly silence.
‘Vince, where’s Maria?’ asked his friend Pete.
‘W-we were fighting and I… I pushed her,’ he replied, voice cracking. ‘I didn’t mean to. She fell and cut her head on that iron statue over there.’
He pointed towards an iron cast of flowers and leaves in the corner of the room.
‘There was so much blood. She went still, wasn’t breathing…’
he whispered.
I stared at him in horror. His blue eyes had glazed over like he was lost in the memory. And as he described the scene, I couldn’t help picturing it with him.
‘I didn’t mean it,’ he whispered quietly.
Pete shook him. ‘Mate, where is she? Is she in hospital?’
Vince backed away, bumping into the wardrobe behind him – they had such a small flat, they kept it in the front room.
‘Where is she?’ I croaked.
‘Here,’ he said, shortly.
My best friend was in the wardrobe?! Vince slid it open…
The silence was deafening. Then piercing screams split the air.
Stuffed inside the wardrobe, her head tucked between her knees, was Maria’s body.
Her olive skin was pale and her long, dark hair was matted to her head with blood.
My mind raced to take it all in. I wanted to close my eyes, turn away from the horrific sight in front of me. But it was too late. The image of my murdered friend was forever burned in my memory.
While Vince’s guests had all been laughing and joking, enjoying the party, Maria had been lying dead just feet away.
I didn’t need to ask what they’d argued about either. Vince had killed my friend because he thought she was keeping secrets.
I wanted to scream and lash out, but shock rooted me to the spot.
Suddenly Pete, an ex-cop, lunged forward and tackled Vince to the floor, binding his hands with the tie I’d bought him for his birthday.
‘She was having an affair,’ Vince sobbed. ‘She thought I was too old.’
Before I knew it, police arrived and arrested him. We all had to stay and give statements.
‘Can we at least shut the wardrobe door?’ wept Tanya.
‘I’m sorry.’ A policeman said. ‘We can’t touch anything until it’s been inspected for forensic evidence.’
Two hours later, I was allowed to go home. I fell on to my bed and cried until I had no tears left.
A week later, a police officer came to see me.
‘You said you spoke to Maria on the phone the night before she died,’ she started. ‘Do you remember her saying something about things being tense?’
I nodded. ‘She told me she couldn’t talk because Vince was there. What’s that got to do with anything, though?’
‘According to Vince that’s what sparked the argument,’ she sighed, sadly. ‘He thought she was talking to her lover.’
If only I hadn’t asked about him, would she still be here? Or if I’d told her about that grope at the Christmas do, would she have left him sooner?
In November last year, he was charged with murdering Maria and pleaded guilty. He’s awaiting sentencing, but will serve at least 10 years behind bars.
I used to think there was no harm in keeping a few secrets, but locking up your darkest thoughts can be deadly.
Anna Davidova, 34, Nikolaev, Ukraine