Charles’s eyes fluttered open. Everything was a blur. His body ached. Blood dripped from his forearm staining his clothes – he lost his breath realizing he’s been cut. The gash pulsated with pain. His eyes began to focus – he was sitting in a bathroom on the toilet. A pain shot through his back as he stood.
Taped to the back of the bathroom door was a note with a key attached to it. He took a labored step towards the door and kicked something – beside the toilet was a Smith and Wesson 357 magnum. He stepped back away from the handgun gripping the black shower curtain pulling it open, the metal rings screeched across the metal bar, a dead woman was in the tub with a gunshot wound to the forehead. Blood was splattered across the white mosaic tile behind her. For a moment Charles was afraid to look away. She stared blankly back at him. He staggered to the door pulling the note down and limped out into the large loft.
His hand shook as he read the paper:
WHERE DOES THIS KEY FIT?
TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT – WHY?
It was his handwriting. He recognized that much. He looked over the loft like it was his first time there. It was dark except for a light on in the kitchenette. On the floor was a chef’s knife with a streak of blood across the blade. He looked to his arm. He could not remember anything that had happened – why he was cut and why was there a dead woman there? A shiver shot up his damaged spine as he reached for the dish towel beside the sink. He spun the towel around the bloody gash on his arm. On the counter was an empty orange pill bottle with a note attached to it:
FOR BACK – CALL DOCTOR FOR MORE – ‘J’.
This note was written by someone else. A woman. Who was ‘J’? Was she the woman in the tub? There were more pill bottles lined up behind it. All prescribed to him. All had names he couldn’t pronounce. There was a weekly pill container – Sunday to Saturday – each capsule was filled with a half-dozen pills. By the looks of it, he hasn’t taken any recently.
He remembered the key. He lifted it to the light, and like a light going off he knew exactly where it went. He shuffled to the bedroom area and to the closet. In the back, hidden behind all his suit coats and hanging slacks, was a tall safe cabinet. The key slide perfectly into the slot. Charles swung the door open – it was filled with hunting rifles and handguns. One was missing.
He pulled the list back out. What are the pieces? After midnight? On his nightstand, there was a watch. It was 1:17 AM. Beside the watch was a framed photograph: a woman and a man with a majestic canyon behind them. He leaned in closer – he was the man. She was the dead woman in the tub.
The dresser had its drawers yanked out. Clothes were spilled across the floor. Scattered over the clothes were greeting cards – birthday wishes, congratulations, and Valentine’s Day love notes all made out to ‘Julia’. Charles didn’t recognize the name that affectionitly signed each one.
A buzzer sounded. Charles jolted.
“Who’s there?” He yelled.
The buzzer was coming from a small box beside the door. A woman’s voice rattled through the speakers. “Buzz me up. It’s me, Julia.”
Charles’s mouth went dry. He staggered to the bathroom in a panick. The buzzer blasted again. He pushed the bathroom door open. The tub was empty. The blood was gone. He caught himself in the mirror. He was thin, pale, dark draped his eyes. He looked down at his frail arm – the gash and the blood was gone, but in his hand was the gun.
Noise was coming from the loft. A woman was talking. His breath quickened.
In the kitchen was the woman from the photo, Julia. She was alive and well slicing cucumbers with a large chef’s knife. Charles approached her. He noticed the clock on the stove click over to 12:04 AM.
“Late night snack?” Julia asked. Her smile quickly faded as she realized that Charles was holding the gun. “Charles? How did you find that key?
“What are you doing to me?” Charles gruffed.
“Did you take your medication today?”
“What are the fucking pieces?”
“All the cards you hid in your drawer have someone else’s name on them. You ‘re always late.”
“It’s not what it seems like, Charles.”
“Who is he?”
“Please. You need to take your medication.”
“Shut up about the goddamn medication. Who. Is. He?” Charles demanded.
Julia was lost for words. She froze. Charles charged at her. She tried to spin away, the knife slipped across his arm. He roared out as the blood oozed from the gash cut into his forearm. He took her by the hair. The knife fell from her grip – the metal blade clanked against the tile floor as she screamed out for help.
Charles dragged Julia into the bathroom. He slammed her into the tub. Her head cracked against the wall. Her world became a blur. What he was saying was garbled. Her ears fought between his words and the sound of her heart thumping.
He raised the gun to her. “What are the fucking pieces?”
She pleaded for him to stop. His hand trembled. “I can explain it if you listen,” she said.
“Who is he?”
“Fuck you. My name isn’t Chuck.”
Julia burst into tears. If she was trying to say something she couldn’t get it out between the sobs. Charles cocked the gun.
“Why does this keep happening over and over?” He said.
Her head ricocheted back as blood burst from the back side of her head. Charles staggered to the toilet dropping the gun at his feet.
Copyright © 2015 E.F. Olsson. All rights reserved.
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