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Excerpts from 'Two Murders in My Double Life'
That night, as we were driving home from Professor Kelly's party, another strange scene was played out...

It was shortly after midnight, and the night was standard horror-movie footage. Thunder, lightning, and ferocious wind. We were passing Professor Mather's Victorian mansion, and I remarked to my wife that it loomed like the Bates motel in Psycho. Sidonia just muttered something about everything reminding me of the movies, and on that point she was right. A long, long time ago my father managed the local cinema in Kostelec, and I practically spent my youth in his movie house. The experiences of youth determine the rest of our lives. I'm not sure how valid this aperçu is for others, but it fully applies to me.

Suddenly, a girl's figure wavered into the beam of my headlights and I stepped on the brakes. She turned, putting up her hand to shade her eyes from the glare. It was Quentin. I opened my door and stepped outside into the rain.

"My God, what are you doing here?"

She stared at me wildly, and perhaps because everything reminded me of the movies, I saw the face of the heroine of the latest installment of Friday the 13th, having just escaped the knife of the indestructible killer.

I opened the rear door of the car for her and without a second's hesitation she jumped in. Once safely tucked into the back seat, she relaxed, and the horror, or whatever it was, vanished from her face. Perhaps it was only dismay over the wetting of her freshly styled hair.

What was she doing here alone, at night, in a violent storm?

* * *

I switched off the TV and went to the bedroom. Sidonia was fast asleep on gin. I lay down and, in my mind, switched to another, older film. It showed Sidonia and me soaked through on a ridge in the Krkonose Mountains, on our walk to the warm and absolute coziness of Peter's chalet. In another take we danced at a ball in the Julda Fulda ballroom, Sidonia in an evening gown, embellished with glittering stuff unavailable in Prague in those days. I had spent two precious days in Paris, not in the Louvre or at the Deux Magots but in department stores, searching for the stuff because I loved Sidonia. Another take: our weekend cottage at Chlomek, Sidonia stuffing her head with the history of the cinema after her friend from the Film Academy, later a world-famous novelist, had led her through the minefield of class obstacles to admission. On that day in late summer 1968, with barely a month before the blow of the iron fist, I read with apprehension the writer-sage's public challenge to people to rise and remove the discredited members of the club from their cozy posts. As if he didn't understand the country that only yesterday had represented for him the utopian future. For me it had never meant that, because I understood it well, perhaps better than the sage; and fear gripped me by the neck. I was afraid that the club, which had almost crushed Sidonia when its members were young and stupid, would complete the job now, when its members had grown old but remained stupid.

I couldn't fall asleep. I got up quietly and went to Sidonia's studio. I switched on the screen of her word processor, and in the dim light I saw the text of her unfinished novel. I felt like crying. And I did. Perhaps because I was old, and the carefree rainy trip to the warmth and absolute coziness of Peter's chalet would never happen again. 

(Reprinted with the permission of the author and

Key Porter Books.)


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