by Julius Falconer
‘Have you ever killed a man?’ Jagger asked his companion.
‘No, of course not. Why, have you?’ Crudson replied with a question of his own.
‘Yes, I’m afraid I have.’
‘Are you going to tell me about it, or was that not the purpose of your question?’
‘Yes, I think I’d like to tell you – if you’ve the time to listen.’
The two men were seated in easy chairs in front of a log fire on a cold winter’s evening. While the snow-storm raged outside, all within was quiet, except for the stately tick-tock of the nineteenth-century French long-case clock that stood in the corner (made by Le Couvé in Napoléonville to celebrate the events of 24 February 1848 – although its present owner had never been able to confirm the clockmaker’s identity or location with other information). The friends each held a glass of golden cognac, which they sipped with appreciation, knowledgeably. Cigar smoke wound up to the ceiling. It was precisely the right place and moment for a story.
‘It happened a few years ago now, in Coventry. I was then an actor with the rep there, as you’ll remember, and we were doing O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh – pretty ambitious, you might say: but then it was still early days at the new – well, newish - theatre, and the management were trying out what worked and what didn’t. Also in the cast was a chap called Higgins, Ed Higgins, whom I had disliked on sight. Why? I don’t know. Was it his gloomy face, sullen frown and big ears? Or his spiky hair and restless hands? Or the misanthropy lurking in his porcine eyes? Heaven knows. Anyway, we never seemed to get on, although as members of the same cast we inevitably saw quite a bit of each other. The part of Margie was being taken by a girl called Amy, new to the company, and she was good, no doubt about it. Whether she’d ever been a prostitute in real life and could play her part from experience, I’ve no idea: I was too gentlemanly to ask. She had a good figure, an effective brassy voice and a mobile face which enabled her to put on a huge variety of expressions: surprise, hate, dejection, anticipation, knowingness, boredom – you name it. What she saw in Higgins I’ve no idea. He was, as far as I could see, an overweight, self-indulgent, spendthrift boor, although he could act, I’ll give him that. It fell out that Higgins and Amy seemed attracted to each other. The chemistry of affection will always be a mystery to me, and I don’t suppose anyone will ever fathom it. Where Higgins was morose, and ugly with it, she was vivacious and very pretty: prettier than almost anybody else I’ve ever seen. Where he was heavy and lumbering, in both physique and manner, she was slim and animated. Soon their mutual attachment made itself known to the rest of us, and most, I suppose, took it in their stride. There is, after all, nothing exceptional in a young – well, youngish - man and a young woman, thrown together in the way of their profession, making a go of it.