November 30th, 2012
Fenton clenched his sore fist, staring down, glancing from his slightly-swollen, red knuckles, to where I was: on my hands and knees, over a Rorschach of blood droplets.
“We don’t have all day,” he said. “Get the fuck up.”
I slowly stood up and slid into the seat before pulling a smoldering cigarette out of the ash tray; Fenton said, “Wait there” and meanderingly walked to the back of the building. When he returned, he held a brown shoebox in his hand. The box’s closed lid was secured with a piece of silver duct tape which sealed the cracks between the lid and the box itself. Fenton sat it on the table and slid into the booth. His blood-red face contributed to the already-palpable rage that hovered around him, like the thick, grey clouds of smoke that were collecting over our heads.
Sandy’s still screaming voice persistently throbbed in my aching head, only interrupted by the soft sound of blood that intermittently dripped onto the table.
Fenton was still visibly angry, but he restarted the conversation, not lacking in the sympathy that he had when he first started.
“I’ve tried to help you as much as I can, M. I’ve been extremely loose about you borrowing money, and bumming off of me. The only time I’ve ever had to react to you was the day you kicked in my door. I know why. Sandy told you to. You know, that’s such fucking bullshit. You think you can excuse your behavior by playing the victim, but you can’t. You’re lying to yourself.”
“When I found you the first time, over that puddle of blood, you were saying something. I listened to what you said.”
Fenton went on to tell me what I had said; as he spoke, the missing memory foggily replayed in my head.
“I don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to hurt anyone, Sandy. I don’t want to be sick. You said this was for my own good. You said that everything would be fine if I did what you said. You’re supposed to help me. Why are you making me sick? Why are you making me do this, Sandy?”
I remembered my reflection in the dark, glimmering pool, staring up at the muttering murderer, mimicking his pathetic pleas to Sandy, as Fenton stood behind him, invisible to his fleeting awareness. The shrill scratch of metal against flint pulled me back into reality; Fenton held the tip of a cigarette into the glowing, yellow orb on top of his lighter.
“You were clearly scared, and you were begging ‘Sandy’ to help you; but, there was no Sandy. There is no Sandy.”
Immediately, my focus was diverted from Fenton’s words of warning to a shouted command:
“Get up! Go to your car and get Rump’s gun, now!” Sandy said.
“I want to help you, Miles, but you’re sick. I can prove it to you, if you just listen to me for one minute,” Fenton said.
“I need a minute,” I said.
“I need to go to my car for something.”
“That’s fine. Take as long as you need,” said Fenton.
The floor squeaked under my white converse as I walked calmly through the kitchen, pulled along, against my will. Phillip had a pair of cheap headphones covering his ears that were connected to a CD player; his chaotic music was playing loud enough that I could hear it faintly as I passed where he stood, in front of the stainless steel table. Todd was kneading a mound of sweet smelling dough and, to himself, quietly quoted the first verse of the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Method Man”.
“Do you have any extra cigarettes?” Todd asked, the verse trailing off. “Would you bring me one? I’m out.”
I stepped onto a blanket of cold white that covered the parking lot and listened to the wind blow, to the crunching sound of snow underfoot, to the muffled scratching as I brushed the snow from the door and window of my Pinto, to the mechanical growl as I pushed my key into the keyhole. I grabbed an unopened pack of Newport Reds from the dashboard. Rump’s Taurus was wrapped in a white cloth in the glove compartment. I stuffed it into the inside pocket of my black woolen jacket and walked back to the door, smacking the top of the cigarette-pack against the palm of my hand as I walked. I threw the top cellophane into the snow, along with the foil, and walked back into the restaurant.
I handed a few cigarettes to Todd, who said “Thank you” before he walked to the back door. When I walked in to the dining room, Fenton was sitting under the grey clouds, with his right hand on top of the shoe box. I placed a cigarette on the table.
“Everything you’ve asked me for—the proof that you are sick—is in this shoe box, M. If you let me, I can help you.”
Sandy’s command had fallen into a hushed suggestion; he didn’t force me to do anything, this time; he told me the best course of action. It was for my own good.
Fenton’s eyes lowered towards the cigarette and he held the flame in front of his face. I pulled the cloth-swaddled pistol from my coat pocket and engaged the hammer, pressing the barrel to Fenton’s forehead, and listened to Sandy’s calm, commanding voice saying, “It’s for your own good, M boy” in a chorus with Rump’s warning:
“You can fix everything, right now.”
A puff of smoke lifted up from his cigarette as the explosion of lead ripped through his brain. Blood splatter drenched the shoebox. I picked it up and cradled it under my arm before walking into the kitchen. Gillespie was in his office, panicking and rooting around in his desk drawers frantically. White powder that he had kicked up in his terrified commotion clouded the room. He quickly pulled something from his desk that flashed in the buzzing fluorescent lights and glowing cocaine fog. I shot him in the chest three times and he collapsed, dropping the letter opener he held in his hand. He laid, moaning, in a crumpled mess on the floor.
“I can’t believe my last words are going to be so fucking cliché. We should’ve ki-“
The traveling bullet pulled a trail of smoky cocaine behind it, on its short journey from the barrel of the Taurus to the side of Gillespie’s head. His CD player lay next to his dead body. As I picked it up, I heard the firing of my Pinto’s motor and I ran outside. Three cigarette butts lay scattered in the snow by the door; they marked the beginning of a short trail of white foot-steps that lead to where my car had been. I opened Gillespie’s CD player and found a plain CD with the words “Serenade Op. 24” written in crude black ink. I covered my ears with the headphones and began walking in the snow.
Gillespie’s bootleg CD flooded my mind with a chaotic dis-melody as I walked down the streets of the snow white city. The cold winter sky was a dull, dark blue, swirled with thick gray clouds. Next to the sidewalk, where I shuffled, cars sped by, their tires carving through the clumps of mixed mud and snow. As I walked, I heard sporadic honking that, it seemed, was directed at me. Bemused, I took a quick inventory of myself to see if there was anything that might have been drawing unnecessary attention: my black coat and jeans were splattered with large drops of blood that ran to the ground; my white cloth tennis-shoes, which were soaked in cool water, were stained by a dark pink, watery mixture of blood and melted snow; the frayed white cloth was quaking in the icy wind around the partially exposed Taurus barrel. I ached at the realization that my most recent murder weapon was exposed, but quickly shoved the pistol back inside my bloody black coat and kept walking.
I put a cigarette in my mouth and reached for my lighter, but it was gone—I left it at Daedalus’ Donuts. Rather than risk going back to retrieve it, I decided to run towards the Drunken Red Head, with my blood-spattered hands covering the shoebox-lid, a cigarette dangling from my mouth and “Serenade Op. 24” frighteningly pulling me along. The bell above the door rang when I walked into the Drunken Redhead. I wasted no time in grabbing a bottle of scotch and a lighter.
The woman behind the counter was visibly disturbed by the blood on my clothes. She fumbled with a tray of lighters for a few minutes, trying to break the tension with tremulous “howdy, mister”s and other small-talk. She tried to force conversation, but her quivering voice stifled what, surely, would have been an anodyne to her pure, confused terror.
The flimsy, plastic platform that held stacked trays of lighters buckled under the pressure of her weighty, trembling hands. When the tower hit the counter, a tidal wave of lighters covered it.
“Sorry, mister. I’m so sorry. I’ll just–just give me a minute and I’ll–”
While she stuttered and quivered in front of me, I reached down and picked up a lighter.
“How much is this one?” I asked.
“A Dollar Thirty-Five,” she said.
I pulled out a dollar and a quarter and put it on the counter. When I went to dig through my pockets for the dime, she said, “That’s fine there, mister. You have a nice day.”
I left the place in shock at both her terror, and the fact that Sandy remained completely silent throughout the interaction. He continued to ignore her as the entry-bell rang. I could faintly hear a phone lift off of the receiver behind me, as I left.
As I exited the store, I saw a small group of silhouettes approaching in the distance, on the opposite side of the street. Translucent rays trailed away from the glowing street lights that interrupted every fourth tree on the sidewalk. After I had walked a short way down the sidewalk, I turned off Gillespie’s frantic music. Immediately, the sounds of the city—the muffled slicing noise that the cars made as their tires cut through the packed ice, as they sped over the dirty pavement; the now intense wind that blew the bare branches of the trees that lined the sidewalk; the shouting and laughing of the small crowd walking on the opposite side of the street–possessed me thoroughly and contrasted with the blood that I could feel flying through my veins, pushed along by my racing heart.
“What the fuck am I going to do now?” I thought, staring down at my stained shoes.
I must have smoked ten cigarettes in the time it took me to walk home. When I walked in, I saw Rebecca was sitting on the couch, talking into the phone receiver about Phillip K. Dick. I went up the stairs as quietly as I could, but she still heard me. When she called me, I ignored her and locked my bedroom door before throwing my bloody clothes in a damp, vile mess on the floor.