Robert W. Walker’s
– picture Bogey & Bacall in modern day Atlanta Noir
Marcus remained alone in his isolation camp, 48-B. Now all the power of the voice that told him he was no longer a fit for this world heralded him, first cajoling and warmly inviting, next berating and accusatory, and wanting his undivided attention again. Here the darkness of it all enveloped him, or very near so. Or had he chosen to cloak himself in it? And was the end result that of his own bad attitude? Or the result of all that’d happened to him? Or how he chose to react to it? Had he embraced the depression, inviting it to come into his pores, to fully take him over?
He didn’t want to think of himself as having brought this all on himself. But there it sat, this albatross of a thought. It came with that question of his attitude, the one string he could play, the one thing he could challenge and tinker with and adjust, and here it sat, taking up space. It’d taken up its cause for the simple reason that it’d always been here. Rooted in who he was; rooted in his brain. He realized, too, that he had so liked her attitude—this lady doctor with whom he’d shared Kim’s pain. The lady he’d met by happenstance. He realized anew how serendipitously life played with people.
Things change; life is ever changing, every moment. Give yourself time, his right side insisted.
Quit thinking so much and just get it over with, his left side chastised him, severely so, calling him a coward. Goading him on to pull the trigger. But the other side kept saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa…slow down.” Meanwhile, all he could really think about now—even with the muzzle placed anew against the roof of his mouth, was Dr. Holley’s fiery, lake-blue eyes.
Damn fool, he thought. I ought to be seeing my son’s eyes, my daughter’s eyes but no. It’s the doctor upstairs. Seeing Kat Holley tonight at O’Dule’s—or at least the idea of it—had fully infiltrated his thoughts.
Had she been flirting with me upstairs?
Don’t be ridiculous.
Flirting amid the carnage and ugliness of apartment 58-B?
“Damn straight,” he muttered aloud to the competing thoughts.
She was flirting with me, wasn’t she? Not my imagination at all. Flirting unashamedly with old-enough-to-be-her-father me. Enough to make a determined man go irresolute, and a good man go bad.
The doctor’d told him that she’d noticed him at O’Dule’s on occasion. He’d been in such a funk for so long, he hadn’t noticed, hadn’t even known that she lived in his building.
He searched his memory for her; he must’ve noticed her at one time or another, coming and going here, or at the corner bar. For the life of me…can’t recall ever seeing her at O’Dule’s.
But he would tonight. That is if he didn’t kill himself first.
The pounding of the wrecking ball down the street began to sound out a beat like something out of Jack & The Beanstalk. Maybe it was the giant’s heart at work.
Hmmm…end it all now, Marcus weighed it up, or find out what Doctor Katrina Holley has in mind for me, or for herself…of, dare I think it? For the two of us?
# # #
Rydell put away the gun for now.
There was more to his depression than simply having been “discharged without prejudice” from the force under a cloud no one could explain. There remained the mystery of the blackout occurring that day, and the black outs that had returned infrequently since in the past several years. Each such “going away” struck Marcus as mini-deaths, but deaths from which he returned, while Stan would never return.
Even before that first black out during the crisis, Rydell’s body had sent up red flags—flyers from the interior desperate for his attention. His body had been trying to tell him something wasn’t right months before, but he’d chosen to ignore the signs. His arrogant brain pretty much ignored his body, and he had paid no heed before the day that Stan, Terry, and Joely had been killed like dogs around him.
Few people understood the depth of depression brought on when friends and associates died around you, and you’re left alive, like those weather reports that have one family at 1102 Medowbrook Lane completely wiped out and killed while the folks at 1103 were left untouched, or soldiers killed in an explosion save one, or as when firemen are killed in a blaze that others survived.
Deep, deep in the soul, Rydell knew that if he’d not blacked out, he’d’ve been just as dead as the others and would not have the luxury of four years to wonder why. To contemplate all these years the sick why of it, the psycho reasoning of a cold-blooded spree killer who chose to let him live. And still no answers.
Why had Iden Cantu chosen as he did; why had he allowed Marcus life over death? Why this generosity so at odds with the taking of three other lives? Six in fact as authorities later learned of the earlier murders—those of Cantu’s wife and children. The typical spree-killer took no pity or prisoners.
Did Cantu allow him to live unscathed physically knowing that it would scar him psychologically?
All this time and no answers, and all this time Marcus had kept up a steady barrage of self-hatred, telling himself, “I failed those who fought with me.”
Perhaps only God and Cantu knew the full story. To black out, there must be a cause, a catalyst, but so far, to date, the mystery remained. It loomed large in his mind every waking moment, and in his subconscious as well. It proved a complete mystery to his physician, Dr. Harold Black as well. Perhaps seventy now if a day, old Doc Black worked with a palsied hand and had been unable to pinpoint the root cause of Rydell’s unusual problem. Black, now suffering from cancer himself, had sent Marcus to specialists for tests.
No heart problems, no blood clots in the lungs, no ballooned arteries in the brain, no encephalitis, no thyroid issues, nothing showing on the CAT scan or the MRI. Rydell proved the adage, a walking medical mystery.
He had PI cases pending, work needing to be done, things to do. Still, none of it appealed to Marcus any longer. In fact, nothing had appeal for him, not for some time now. Not food, not drink, not sex nor drugs, and certainly not life.
So he sat with the gun for hours.
Paced the cave of his apartment.
Took long moments to gaze into the photos of his children, of himself and Bev on a beach in Florida, of times past before the incident, before all life had turned sour.
He found himself back to square one, sitting on his bed below the light fixture that had rattled and sent white dust over him from above, and had alerted him to something amiss up there. Unfortunately, not even saving Kim from her captor had changed his mind about who he was and where he wanted to be. Life still sucked.
His clock ticked and displayed the fact it was 7PM and still the wrecking ball sounded nearby. Working overtime.
He tried the taste of his gun barrel again.
At the same time, he wondered what was that perfume she’d worn to the murder scene.
Do you hear yourself? Don’t be a dunce!
He tightened his grip on the gun. Two hours into the future, after he will have killed himself, a beautiful young woman would walk into O’Dule’s searching every dark corner for any sign of him, but she’d find none. He’d be a no-show. In fact, he’d give new meaning to the term.
He tightened his grip around the gun, his knuckles bloodless with it.
# # #
The wrecking ball had stopped its horrible work, and finally Marcus could think. Instead of doing away with himself, for the time being, Marcus decided a really nice, long, hot and languid shower would be a good alternative. Definitely, a shower was called for, as he could not recall his last time under the spray.
He put the gun aside. His legs moved him now, taking control, going for the shower. Part of the old brain thought him and his legs silly, thought him an idiot for the way he’d begun thinking about Dr. Katrina Holley, allowing her visage to replace his intent. And for what?
She most assuredly had to have an ulterior motive. She knew he was a veteran cop, and even a retired cop is still a cop. Likely knew he was running a lame private eye agency out of his so-called home.
She’d sized him up, how he’d handled the situation with Kim upstairs. Sure, she liked the way he’d handled the situation. Liked his take-charge attitude as automatic as it was. No doubt she wanted to hire him, to either tail a boyfriend or to intimidate one—or to get pictures proving infidelity. The usual scuttling and spying and smut work.
She deserved better repeated itself a hundred times in his mind. That and more self-deprecating words. All that and more bombarded him until he began to think himself a fool. A depressed fool at that.
The young doctor did deserve everything life offered, deserved the smorgasbord of it all. Deserved the fabled horn of plenty…certainly plenty more than he.
After all, she was a good-looking woman. Even if she were still mourning her lost true love—this young cop she’d referred to surely she had suitors. And how often were suitors trouble? Most assuredly, she needed his help a great deal more than she needed him. Far more interested in his resume than in Marcus Rydell.
To be expected, he told himself, searching for a fresh bar of soap, a clean towel, here in the bathroom.
Good sign, he told himself, that he could still muster up the occasional sarcasm.
He took his time in the shower. He had nowhere to go and plenty of time not to go there. Soon the rhythmic spray and his focus had zeroed in on O’Dule’s—how it might go tonight, nine. And why not? Maybe he was wrong about her. Maybe she didn’t want him for the usual reasons a babe wanted a PI—his expertise with a gun and an intuitive mind for sleuthing. Maybe she just wanted someone safe to hang out with and talk to and have a drink, a few laughs, some fun. How much fun? he queried himself, thinking how strange that a small noise like the warm spray over his head could put an end to the huge noise of the wrecking ball and the jackhammer in his head.
That’d be refreshing, different if this woman were interested in him rather than hiring him.
Some date she’d make, he thought and smiled at the silliness he’d allowed into his mind. Stupid old man. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d been out with someone. And here was a woman of class, a woman soon making a lot of money, top of her game, confident, strong-willed, opinionated, complicated, and difficult in a good way. Capable, obviously positive and appreciative of life, well-dressed, and she had a knock out smile.
It’d be worth it just to see that smile again. Even if only once more.
Still, doubt—doubt of himself, doubt of his motives, and hers—like a mischievous imp infiltrated here under the hot spray. Maybe he ought to quit daydreaming and dry off, get dressed for his final act and be done with it. Nobody liked a man of indecision; nobody ever really liked Shakespeare’s character Hamlet for that very reason—an indecisive teenager.
“To be or not to be…” he shouted aloud. “To live or to die…that is the question and the heart of indecision.
Again with Dr. Holley’s smile; again it dominated his thoughts. On the one hand the grave, on the other her company even if for a mere hour.
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