The Limelight

Sophie sat in the back of the taxi counting the minutes on her phone; as though focusing on the plump, little digits would help shut out the white noise of the black city around her. She needed to concentrate. Detective Inspector Ellis had left her a voicemail at 9pm – his voice thick with disappointment – to say there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Carter. The second she’d hung up, Sophie had grabbed her coat before she could change her mind. This was her chance. Ever since she’d seen the interview tape she couldn’t shake the feeling she was missing something. Carter was holding back and she needed to speak to him alone. Exactly 16 minutes later, the cab pulled up. The tower block loomed above her like a giant concrete needle piercing the velvety sky. She didn’t want to give Carter any warning so she waited until a baggy youth left the building and grabbed the door behind him. As the lift swept her up to the seventh floor she rehearsed her opening line but, in the end, she needn’t have bothered. Carter took one weary look at her and beckoned her in.
His apartment surprised her. She’d expected the sparse, clean lines of a bachelor pad but instead a small hallway led through to a warm sitting room. On one wall, floor-to-ceiling shelves sagged under the weight of hundreds of books. Glossy photography bibles fought for space with literature’s heavyweights: Dickens, Joyce, Eliot. The room was dominated by an enormous oak table – too large for such a small space. “It was my grandfather’s,” shrugged Carter, by way of explanation.

“How are you?” Sophie asked, sitting down on the frayed brown sofa. He looked smaller than she remembered.

“How do you think? Being the prime suspect in a murder inquiry can take its toll." His eyes, ringed with purple, looked blacker than night and when he raked a hand through his hair, it stood on end as though it hadn’t been washed for days. Not quite the player now, Sophie thought.

“For a photographer, you don’t have many photographs,” said Sophie, looking round at the bare walls.

“Why are you here, Sophie?”

Sophie took out her notepad. “Look, I know you’ve been over this before but I need to hear it one more time. What was your relationship with Lydia?”

Carter groaned. “For Christ’s sake, Sophie, you know all this.”

When Sophie didn’t say anything, he sighed. “We hooked up every so often. Normally when we crossed paths around the world. She was beautiful and damaged and…” Carter’s voice broke, just for a second.
“…And what?”

“And lonely. She was the loneliest person I’d ever met.”

“And yet you screwed her over,” said Sophie coolly. “Carter Lewis, the star photographer, with the female population at his feet. A girl in every studio, right? You met up with Lydia the night before she was murdered to break her heart. Didn’t you?” Carter stared at her as though seeing her properly for the first time that evening.

“You think I broke her heart?” He laughed softly. “Let me tell you, no one dances around with people’s emotions more than Lydia Lawson. Oh sure, she could enchant and beguile when she needed to but, in reality, she was a like beautiful stone fortress; all flinty ambition and utterly impenetrable.”
Sophie watched Carter as he tried - and failed - to keep a lid on his emotions. All this time she thought he’d been toying with Lydia.

“Well, what did you expect?” she asked, more gently. “Lydia was a star; the limelight was all she knew.”

“Yeah, well, there are certain shades of limelight that can ruin a girl’s complexion,” Carter sneered.
Sophie stopped suddenly.

“Carter, that’s a quote. Why did you just quote Truman Capote? That line was from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, wasn’t it?”

Carter said nothing; he just looked at her.

Sophie’s brain scrambled to catch up with what her instincts already knew. Holly Golightly, the high-class call girl with a heart, spoke that line. She’d read the book a hundred times.
“Carter…” Sophie said slowly. “What are you saying?”

He sprang up from the sofa like it was on fire. “I’m not saying anything.” He paced up and down, eyes on the floor.

“Carter, please. I need to know. Was Lydia a prostitute?” Carter stopped pacing and sat down. When he looked up, it was as though every single torment he’d suffered since Lydia’s death had taken a chisel and carved its mark into his face.

In the end, he didn’t need to say anything.


Corrie Butcher
online creative writing school