A hefty half-tumbler of scotch
He locked the car and darted to the front door, eager to get out of the rain. It was a struggle to put the key in the lock and hold his cue, together with the trophy. He managed it and eager to show Betty the shield, he stepped inside, but in so doing his cue slipped from his hand. It fell across her twisted legs and the tip hit the wall. He stared at the crumpled body of his wife.
‘So, Mr Adams, what time did you get home?’
‘It would have been around a quarter to eleven, I don’t know exactly, I didn’t look at my watch,’ Walter told the detective.
‘And that was how you found her, at the bottom of the stairs?’
‘You didn’t touch her, or anything else?’
‘No, well only the telephone to dial 999.’ Walter looked down at his hands. He had been squeezing his fingers so tightly that they were aching and bright red with blood. ‘Oh and I pulled her skirt down. You could see her underwear.’ The policeman nodded. There was a tap on the door and a uniformed officer’s head appeared.
‘The doctor’s finished, sir. I think he’d like a word.’ Walter began to rise.
‘It’ll be me sir, that he wants a word with,’ the sergeant said, resting his hand on Walter’s shoulder. After he left, the constable fully entered the room. He stood with his back to the sideboard, looking down at Walter. He smiled but Walter looked away. Although he was six feet tall and weighed over fifteen stone, he wanted to bawl like a baby, but he managed to control himself. He stared at his own reflection in the grey television screen. Why did it have to happen? On this of all nights. He had returned home as the West Midlands Snooker Champion, all set to celebrate with Betty. He’d been given a bottle of fizzy wine, especially for the occasion.
The Detective Sergeant re-entered the room. ‘That’s it for tonight Mr Adams. The doctor’s gone and we might as well get along as well. Is there someone I can ring , to come and stay with you, do you have any children? It would perhaps be best if you‘re not on your own.’
‘I’ll be alright. Thank you. I’m sorry you’ve got this trouble. What will happen next?’
‘I’ll come back and see you tomorrow, sir. Will ten o clock be OK?’
‘Yes, that’s … er … fine, tomorrow …yes.’ He began to rise from the armchair.
‘Don’t get up sir, we’ll see ourselves out.’ Walter nodded, but still stood up, staring after them as they departed leaving the door just slightly ajar. He heard the front door slam and a little later the engines of two cars were started and the vehicles were driven away. Walter turned and gazed at his reflection in the mirror above the fire grate.
‘Oh, Betty,’ he said out loud, ‘I’m so terribly sorry.’
As there was no suspicion of foul play, the official aspects of the case were quickly completed and two weeks later Walter was advised that he could arrange the funeral. The inquest had been opened and adjourned and when it was reconvened, the Coroner was quickly able to bring in a verdict of accidental death. Elizabeth Adams had fallen down stairs mainly due to imbibing an amount of alcohol, which, had she been driving, would have been described as being three and a half times over the limit. Her sister who came to stay with Walter was shocked, as were their friends and neighbours. As far as anyone knew Betty did not drink, well, perhaps a sherry now and again, or a glass of wine on special occasions.
Walter of course knew different. He was aware of the situation. He had found the empty bottles, in strange places. A vodka bottle in the airing cupboard, another among the Christmas decorations in the attic and gin bottles underneath his shed and once, buried in the garden. He knew, but didn’t know how to deal with it. He realized that he should have sought help but who could he turn to when he didn’t have the courage to discuss the matter with Betty. At first he tried a jokey way. ‘Steady old girl,’ he would say if she stumbled or was a bit unsteady. Once when he found her on the floor in the bathroom, whilst helping her up he said, ‘you’ll have to take more water with it love.’
A week after the funeral, Annie was still staying with Walter. She placed his supper on the table. ‘Would you like a glass of beer with your meal?’ she asked him, as she had noticed several bottles in the cupboard under the stairs.
‘No, no thanks, I can’t face a drink. I’ve never drunk much, at snooker I’d only have a couple of shandies, usually when I’d finished playing.’
‘Did you know, about the drinking I mean?’ She asked him as he sat down at the table. He stared at his food and after a long drawn out sigh, he nodded.
‘Yes, but I didn’t know what to do. I suppose I pretended that it wasn’t serious. I recognized her mood changes, heard her being sick in the bathroom. The more she was affected the more I went out, so I didn’t have to face it. If I played four evenings a week, it meant that when I came home she’d either be in bed or fast asleep in the armchair.’
‘Why didn’t you call me? I would have come I could have talked to her.’
‘I was ashamed, that’s why. You see it was all my fault. I should have been here not out playing snooker and ignoring her. It was my fault she took to drink. My fault and I did nothing about it.’
Walter began to get over the death of his wife, time was healing, but he never played snooker again. In fact he never goes out in the evening he sits in his chair in front of the television set and sips his Scotch. More often than not he’s fast asleep in his armchair by ten thirty at night.