I dont want to kill you, p.28

I Don't Want to Kill You, page 28

 

I Don't Want to Kill You
 


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  ‘I don’t think you understand,’ said Brooke. ‘We don’t need Forman’s phone. I told you, I remember everything.’

  I stood silently, processing her words and their ramifications. Everything. I nodded. ‘Okay. Now try to rest; it’s over for now.’

  She laid back in the bed, staring at the ceiling. ‘No, John. It will never be over.’

  Agent Ostler was waiting in the hall. She nodded as I stepped out.

  ‘The doctor says you’re released,’ she said. ‘You recover from trauma very quickly; the paramedics were impressed.’

  ‘I’ve had a lot of practice.’

  ‘That you have.’ She fell into step beside me as we walked down the hall. ‘Brooke will be in the hospital a few more days. Your mother, of course, is dead.’

  ‘Thank you for breaking it to me so gently.’

  ‘Perhaps you can tell me why there was a bullet-hole in the roof of your car?’

  ‘I bought it used.’

  ‘Preliminary evidence from the car suggests, very strongly, that someone set fire to it purposely. Any comment on that?’

  ‘To be fair, it was a very ugly car.’

  ‘Someone broke into Father Erikson’s house a few days ago, then broke into his chapel and forwarded his phone to, believe it or not, Agent Forman’s cellphone number.’ She smiled humourlessly. ‘That number seems to turn up in the strangest places, don’t you think?’

  ‘Or you may have just written it down wrong,’ I said, shrugging. ‘Don’t feel bad; these things happen.’

  Agent Ostler stepped in front of me and stopped, blocking my path. ‘Maybe this will get a real answer. Your mother called me this afternoon; said she had something I’d want to see. Perhaps you can guess what she showed me.’

  I blew out a long, slow breath, pretending to think. ‘The shoe museum?’

  ‘Black sludge,’ she said. ‘She had some interesting theories about it as well. And she was very worried that you were getting yourself into some kind of trouble.’

  I spread my arms, gesturing at the hospital around us. ‘How prophetic.’

  Ostler watched me a moment longer, then scowled. ‘You still don’t want to talk; that’s fine. But there’s one more thing I don’t understand.’ She paused, seeming to prepare herself. ‘If my theory is correct, you’ve taken down three of the damn things.’ I looked up, and she held my gaze as she spoke. ‘That’s a better record than any of my people, and we’ve been hunting them for years. How’d you do it?’

  I stared at her. Did she really just say what I think she said? I weighed my options, and decided to draw her out a little more. ‘Three what?’

  ‘You tell me. Nobody’s figured that out yet.’

  I smiled. ‘As a matter of fact, Nobody has.’ I glanced around; we were completely alone. ‘All that stuff you talked about earlier – the fire and the break-ins and everything? That all goes away.’ I allowed her to think about this. Then: ‘After that, Brooke and I have a little proposition for you.’

  Marci’s body was laid out on the embalming table, pale and still beneath the sheet. I pulled back the top with my good hand, exposing her head and shoulders. She was beautiful. I scratched the cast on my broken wrist, staring down at Marci’s face – a face I’d seen a thousand times, ten thousand times, in the real world and in my dreams. I reached out a finger, gently, gingerly, and touched her cheek. It was cold.

  ‘Hi,’ I said, uncertain. ‘I know you’re not really there. This is just your body. Kind of funny, I guess, that the one guy who didn’t want you for your body ended up getting it anyway, and losing everything else.’ I rested my hand on the table, looking down. ‘I don’t mean funny. Ironic? You were the one who was good with words, not me.’

  I pulled up the side of the sheet, exposing her arm, and stroked her fingers. ‘My dad left when I was seven. He was a jerk, and he beat my mom, and he hit me and Lauren a few times, and we hated him – but we loved him too, you know? That’s what you do; he’s “Dad”. I don’t think you can help it. And then he left, and it broke my heart – broke it so hard I didn’t think I even had one any more.’ I held her fingers tightly in my own, staring at her lifeless face. ‘I’ve never told this to anyone – not to Mom, not to Doctor Neblin, not to anybody. I suppose technically I still haven’t, since you’re not even here, but it feels good to say it, anyway.’

  I looked back at her hand, feeling the ridges and bones of each knuckle, rubbing them between my fingers. ‘Now my mom is gone too, and I know it sounds totally crazy, but . . . it’s one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me, and one of the best. She died, and it broke my heart again, and that means . . .’ I looked back at her face, then up at the ceiling, watching the ventilator fan turn slowly behind its hard metal grate. ‘I think that means that I have a heart.’ I huffed, half a laugh and half a cry. ‘Who’d have guessed?’

  There were tears on my cheek, cold and wet. I let go of Marci’s hand to wipe them away, then pulled the sheet back down to cover her arm. ‘Listen, I’m no good at this. I’m still a mess – I’m probably a bigger mess now that Mom’s dead - and I can’t just change overnight. You’re the lucky one in this relationship, getting out before you had to know me any better and see how messed up I really am. But I wanted you to know – or I wanted to tell you, anyway – that you helped a lot. Mom’s death showed me that I’m not as lost as I thought I was, and I can still have some kind of normal life, but you’re the one who showed me how. How to live. I’m sorry you’re not here for it, but . . . wherever you are, if you’re anywhere, maybe it’ll make you happy to know that you helped me.’

  I paused, watching her, then leaned down and kissed her - a tiny brush of lips, almost nothing at all. ‘I think I finally know, now that you’re gone, that I really did love you. I just didn’t know how.’ I straightened up. ‘I guess that isn’t very funny either.’

  I pulled the sheet back over her head, walked to the door. ‘Goodnight, Marci.’

  I paused. ‘I love you.’

  I turned out the light and closed the door.

 


 

  Dan Wells, I Don't Want to Kill You

 


 

 
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