Excerpts

October 25th—it would have been their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. She shouldn’t have done it, but nevertheless, Di allowed herself to linger over “the drawer,” as she thought of it, the place where she hoarded the remnants of Don’s life. Even worse, she had put The Supremes on the stereo again, if only to drown out the noise from across the hall. She’d cried herself to sleep that night; something after Don died, she promised herself never to do again. Thirty years, the things they could have done, the places they could have gone, if only he’d made it too.

Trapped in a fitful sleep, she was lost in a jungle. It didn’t look familiar, and yet, somehow it did. Ant was there, and so was Elvin, which was odd, because she hardly remembered Ant, and the four of them had never gone anywhere together. As they moved through the branches and underbrush, a thick fog surrounded them. Some kind of melting jelly dripped from the canopy of overhead branches. The swirling fog grew denser, the goo singed her skin. “Where are we?” she shrieked. “I’m on fire!” But no one answered. She was alone. At least until Elvin and Ant returned to find her sleeping on a pile of dirty uniforms.

“Where were you?” said Elvin. “You should have been there. You could have saved him. It’s all your fault!”

“Where’s Don?” Even in her dream, her voice sounded clear and rational. “We promised we would take care of each other.”

“He kept asking for you. And you were sleeping! Look at you. You were sleeping while they killed him.”

Ant pulled out his gun and aimed at her skull. “You deserve to die! It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault…” The chant echoed relentlessly. Her head felt like it was going to split.

Di sat up in bed, sweating, trying to catch her breath as she looked around the starkly furnished bedroom. The clock on the nightstand said 2:00 a.m. She must have fallen asleep after dinner sometime, she thought, her mind still hazy. Her stereo still played in the living room. At least that noise in the hall had stopped.

She was in the kitchen, getting a glass of juice, when she heard arguing out in the hall. The voices were angry, even threatening. She pressed her ear to the thin door and listened to the sounds of crackling paper and shuffling feet, and witnessed the magic of money.

Without a word, Elvin opened the door and slipped into the hall, just as Dent stepped out to grab his newspaper.

“Hey there, Elvin! Been a busy morning around here, hasn’t it?”

Elvin didn’t respond, fearing Dent misinterpreted his presence in the Silver’s apartment.

“Well, it sure has been noisy down there. Want to join me for some coffee?”

“Not today, Dent.” Elvin inserted his key into his apartment door.

He latched Vanna’s collar onto the leash, and wondered if he should have divulged more of his personal life to Annie. Maybe if he had told her about Cherie—how he had been taken for granted, how much he still loved her, and yes, all the broken promises in his own life—maybe he could have helped her. As he headed down the hall, he could only think about her last remark to him—that he didn’t understand, that it wasn’t that simple.

Suddenly, Vanna jumped forward, attempting to leap down the steps to the first floor.

“Whoa, lady, too fast,“ he corrected, jerking the leash. But the dog persisted in the tug of war. As they reached the first floor, however, Elvin spotted the reason for Vanna’s response. The door to Apartment B stood wide open; uniformed police officers buzzed about like bees to honey.

“Back,” said Elvin, coaxing the dog away from the scene. But as he waited for the hubbub to subside, his impatience grew, and he edged toward the doorway of the open apartment, all the while, holding Vanna close to his side. Craning his neck he pushed closer to the commotion, until he could overhear the muffled comments.

“Looks like they got her at close range.”

“Must have been fast.”

“Get these people out of here.”

“Can you find any ID on the body?”

“Look for a purse somewhere, will ya?”

“Sir,” said a policeman as he approached Elvin, “you’ll have to get that dog out of here.” Vanna’s whimpering and whining grew more intense by the second.

“Who was it?” asked Elvin.

“You live here?”

“Upstairs.”

The cop took a deep breath. “Ever seen a woman with blonde hair around here?”

Elvin nodded. “A blonde lives in A. Right there.”

The cop looked hopeful. “Think you could take a quick look and tell us if this is her?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll hold your dog.”

“No sir, she’ll be fine.” Elvin inched his way into the barren apartment. Nothing could have prepared him. Facing Cherie’s corpse, Elvin’s senses toppled like a smoldering skyscraper. His pulse stopped beating-or so it seemed to him—because he couldn’t believe his eyes. Paralyzed by shock, breathless and heartbroken, retaliation was a distant daydream. For a guy who wished he could die, that dream made perfect sense.

“Sir,” said the cop, “just tell us if you know the lady or not, and we’ll take care of the rest.”

When Elvin finally spoke, he felt as if he were floating up from the depths of the ocean, sputtering and gasping for air. “You don’t understand, sir,” he blurted. “It’s not that simple.”

Add a Comment

By submitting your comment, you agree that it may be published on ClaireApplewhite.com.