Archive for the ‘Post 5.1’ Category

Tuesday, March 27, 5:38 p.m.

Jack asks me after finishing his cigarette, but before finishing his coffee.

The setting sun dyes his face orange and gold. He doesn’t make eye contact with me.

“Will you help me?”

“With Lucy?” I ask.

He shakes his head.

“I don’t know what I did on Thursday night,” he says. “I think I did something terrible after you left me. But I can’t remember.”

And here’s the guilt trip, pulling up the curb and asking me to go for a ride.

I left him that night. I was stone sober. I was the designated driver. He was drunk as hell. He told me to let him out of the car outside a bar. And I did.

“What can I do?” I say. My voice is a tight braid of apology, anger and defensiveness.

Jack slides his cold eyes to mine. In the dying sunset, they aren’t their usual blue, but the copper of dying embers or pennies on the eyelids of a dead man.

“Will you help me find out?” he says.

“What exactly do you think you did?”

Jack inhales, cigarette-less. He pulls another out of the pack, sticks it between his dry lips, lights it, and sucks in hard.

“I think I left the bar late Thursday night. I think someone approached me. I don’t know what for. I think I hit them. I think I hit them a lot. Maybe they were trying to mug me. Or maybe I was just fucked up in the head because of what you and I did.”

What he and I did was peruse photos of his dead wife on the anniversary of her murder. Jack was lubricated by plenty of alcohol in order to keep him talking. I liquored him up and drank nothing myself so that I could keep control over the situation. Then I abandoned him in the street. I am a total bastard.

Can a woman be a bastard?

“Oh God, Jack…I’m sorry. I should have stayed with you. But…would I have been able to stop you?”

Jack considers. He continues to consider through three drags on his cigarette.

Finally he says, “You’re all I remember clearly from that night. I remember I got out of your car, and you said…”

He closes his eyes. He is still for almost a minute.

“You said, ‘Jack? You’re going home, right? Want me to walk you, make sure you get inside okay? You’re not going into that bar, right?’”

That sounds like me. He has a good memory.

He continues, “And I said…‘God…’”

“‘You have no idea,’” I supply.

“Yeah.”

We sit in silence for ages. The sun sets behind his neighbor’s roof. It grows so cold.

“I know cops,” Jack says at last. “If I went and told them half of what I told you, I’d be booked and charged with about eight unsolved murders. Maybe even the Lake Washington serial killer I’ve been covering. I need you to help me.”

“How?”

“I’ll die in prison.”

“Jack…”

“Who would take care of Lucy?”

Please don’t ask me to take her! I shriek silently.

“How can I help you?” I say. “I don’t know what you’re asking me.”

“You’ve been investigating me for weeks, right?”

“No, I haven’t,” I protest.

“You talked to my boss, you kept calling and emailing me, you followed me to work, you Yahooed me—”

“If you mean Googled, yes, I did that. And the other stuff too, I guess. So what?”

“So keep doing it and tell me what you find out.”

“You’re serious?”

He nods.

“Why don’t you apply your own reporterly talents and investigate yourself, um, yourself?” I say.

No one can be that objective,” he snorts.

“I don’t know. You of all people could probably pull it off,” I say.

“I’m too old,” he says. “I’m done being objective.”

“I’m not an investigative reporter, Jack. I didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest.”

Had I known what I was doing—and what I was getting into—I would have chosen to spend this month working on my unfinished literary fiction novel about a family struggling with their child’s cystic fibrosis. I had the perfect interviewees handed to me…and I promptly handed them off to an intern.

Jack does not praise my innate talent, nor my Lois Lane-ish tenacity, nor my searing intellect. He simply says, “Did you read my old articles?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Some of them.”

“Which ones?”

“A few before your wife was murdered, to get a feel for how you used to work. All the ones I could find in the Washingtonian’s online archives that you wrote about her killer’s trial. And a few after. There weren’t many after.”

Jack takes a last drag off his cigarette, then pitches it into his sodden front yard (trashy!)

“I miss being married,” he says. “I miss her like hell. But I miss the whole wedded bliss racket worse. Being two people, you know? Being…accountable?”

“I know,” I say. “Speaking of accountable, I should probably go. It’s getting late…”

“Will you do it?”

“If you tell me exactly what you want me to do, Jack, maybe. Maybe,” I say.

I’m getting annoyed. I want to go home to my un-murdered husband.

“Keep investigating me and tell me what you find out,” he says. “Don’t go yet.”

“I need to get home.”

I set my coffee cup on the porch and begin to dig through my purse.

“Katherine,” he says.

“It’s cold,” I say.

“You’re the only person who can tell me my future. Please stay?”

He holds out his hand.

The sky has gone navy. The stars will pop out any minute. In this compelling half-light, his eyes are the sky…navy with stars shining in the pupils.

I reach out my hand and drop his car keys and driver’s license into his waiting palm. Our fingers do not touch. I stand and leave.

 

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