(Dear Reader, have you missed any earlier scenes? Catch up here: Stalker)
Summer of 2009
Baby, you must promise me two things. One, you must tell my stories. Do not let my stories die with me. And two, you must pour my ashes into a pristine waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I will flow into the Shenandoah Valley. Will you do that for me? I will make a detailed map.
I promise the first to Stalker, but I never promise the second.
Richmond Virginia, 1974. Deborah’s father was dying. He was one of the wealthiest men in Virginia, but that could not save him from the cancer eating away his lungs. Deborah loved her father more than anyone, except maybe me. And those bastards at the hospital, Deborah’s hospital. Where she worked. They didn’t care what she was going through. Those bastards.
We buried her father. She took a trip to Mexico without me. A little vacation to clear her head. I thought she was better when she came back. She turned 30. I bought her the prettiest week’s worth of panties I could find for a birthday present. Size small. She had been with another man; I wanted her to have new things. We needed to start fresh. She loved trying the presents on and modeling them for me. She was giddy and playful. Maybe we could be happy again.
She kept her promise to me. She never brought her brother’s gun back.
I was growing weary of Virginia. I was a Northerner, and they never let me forget it. I turned 22. I missed my family in New York. I missed my friends. It was hard for me to make new friends in Richmond, took a long time. Too long. I never fit in. I missed Chris, Simon, the Strong Street Boys, Bruno, Rich, Ben, Patrick. Baby.
Deborah and I lay in bed one night. Had we made love that night? I don’t think so, not if she still wore her bra.
Deborah said, “So are you going to marry me, or what?”
I thought of the Bronx. I wanted to go home.
I should have said, no, I won’t stay in Richmond. Come with me to New York. But all I said was –
What? Women can’t read your mind?
She got out of bed and went into the closet and came out with a Colt 45. No it was not her brother’s gun. She kept her promise on that. This was her father’s ancient weapon in her hand.
“I will do something you will never be able to undo.”
I leaped out of bed like a wild man. I saw it in slow motion, but still I didn’t have time.
“NO!!” I screamed. My hand stretched out a mile in front of me.
Straight to her heart. She was a doctor. She knew how to do it. No taking chances with a shot to the head, leaving a cripple who couldn’t get a second chance at it.
Straight to the heart.
BOOOM!!! The gun flew into the air.
If I could go back in time. Just let me get that gun before it goes off. I just need 30 more seconds. I would trade my life for those 30 seconds. Quantum Leap back.
It’s not like in the movies. It takes a long time to die.
This was 1974. We didn’t have cell phones. Shit. I didn’t even have a phone. I ran downstairs to the neighbor. Ran naked down those flights and banged on that door.
“Call an ambulance!”
No answer. I fuckin’ kicked that door in with my bare feet. That’s a lot harder to do than in the movies, too.
The newspaper article said that the police found drugs in the apartment. Maybe there was a little pot. That was all. It wasn’t like they said.
The smell of burned tit filled the apartment. I will never get the smell out of my nostrils. For five months, I couldn’t sleep because I smelled burned tit. Even when I went home to the Bronx. Back to my parents’ apartment in Kingsbridge. I can still taste it in the back of my mouth.
She was bleeding out. It takes a long time. Even though she knew how to do it. Straight to the heart – sure death. I held her in my arms. Helpless.
The gun had a single bullet in it. She knew what I would do if it had another.
BOOOOM!! I still hear it every night. If I drink enough, I can silence it for a few hours and sleep. Pretty soon, I’m dreaming it all over again.
The police cut off her bra. I see the damage. Her perfect little breasts, torn apart. The blood doesn’t stop. She flutters and dies. In my arms. Her blood on my living room floor. Her blood on my hands.
Just give me another 30 seconds. I demand a do over. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t mean it.
Say what you want. I heard it before. Yes, that is what my sisters said: I was young. She was troubled. Say what you want, but I was responsible. I was the man. She was never the same after we killed our son. I should have seen the signs. I should have known. I am responsible, as good as if I pulled the trigger.
They must be thorough in these cases. They must cut open the body. Search. Inspect. Weigh every portion.
“Was she pregnant?” asked the police.
The abortion – Murder One.
Deborah – Murder Two.
Another son? My son? Murder Three?
I had to call her brother. Fuckin’ hardest thing. I had to face her family. I stood in church – the same church where I had sung solo at Christmas, I stood like a Judas. I had to bury her. I moved slow motion. I knew a special circle of hell awaits suicides. Her nightmare was not over.
I asked her mother for my letters back. “No, anything you gave Deborah is a gift. You can’t take back gifts.” They wouldn’t let me have one thing of hers. One sweet thing to smell, to save. I’m left with burnt flesh in my nostrils.
She left a letter for me to find. She knew what she was doing.
I visited her grave a year later. Alone.
I made a solemn vow.
“I will make the greatest sacrifice, dear God, if you will spare Deborah from an eternity in hell. Take me, take me instead. Do what you will with me. I vow: I will not take my own life – I will live out my sentence in this purgatory called earth, if you — spare her. Take me. Spare her.”
I cannot self-terminate. I agreed to live this hell of an existence on earth, if she would be spared.
I made a deal. I’ve kept my part. I will check that God kept his.
When my time comes, I will rescue her.
The next one — Murder Four — that was six years later.
. . . to be continued
© Barbara E. Berger, 2011, all rights reserved. “Stalker” is a work of fiction.