The Chatter

The Goodbye

A small piece of The Saint of Seven Mile.

          He settles down on the sidewalk in front of their apartment with Sue in his lap, breathing heavily, panicked and near tears.

          The light above them reveals the true severity of her injuries. He knows she’s dying. She won’t live long enough to get to the hospital, most likely not even long enough to call 911. Around them the street is deserted, the snow falling heavily upon them. The winter wind blows cold, and Mason feels the specter of death standing beside him once again.

          Sue’s lips move, blood trickles from her lips, and faint words pass between them. “I’m sorry I got angry,” she tells him.

          “No, I’m sorry,” he answers, his own words trembling with emotion as he squeezes her tighter.

          She whispers one last phrase; “I love you,” and never speaks again.

          Long silent moments pass. Through quivering lips he answers her, even though he knows she will not hear him. “I love you more.”

          Mason refuses to move. Not an inch, not a muscle. He holds Sue in his arms as the light fades from her eyes. He can feel her heart beat in rhythm with his own, until it gradually slows and eventually stops. Her last exhale whispers into his ears, just like her breathing had from her pillow in the middle of the night when he would watch her sleep; a sound he will never forget, especially now. An hour later as her skin cools to his touch, he still hasn’t moved. They huddle there together by the side of the road, the widening gap between life and death trying to pull them apart, but he refuses to let go.

          The streetlamp above him flickers sporadically as the cold winter breeze bites and claws at his face, the blood beneath them already frozen. He had vowed to protect her, to keep her safe. At this moment this is all he knows to do; to hold her here, to keep the world away, even in death. In the dark quiet places of his mind the demons begin to stir, slowly at first, then more vigorously as they realize the gatekeeper is gone. For months she had kept them in check, pushed them back, keeping them tamed with logic and love. Now there is no one guarding the wall.

          He kisses her cold blue lips, bits of blood slipping into his mouth; pieces of her to remain within him forever. His tears fall, the warm salty stream burning against his frozen cheeks. Like an old friend, this sort of pain and sorrow have followed him all of his life, always seeming to manifest itself the same way. Now as his broken heart bleeds into rage, the demons creep forward. The wall that locks away his secrets, the barrier that holds back the unique way he perceives the world, shakes and cracks as the monsters pound on it from within. Unguarded and unchecked, the floodgates open, and he surrenders to the madness and rage.

~ * ~ ~ * ~

The room is cold, barren and clinical. The table that Sue lies upon is even colder; the surgical steel so sterilized and void of the warmth of life and comfort as to be disrespectful. Mason stands by her side in silence, haunting memories consuming his thoughts. He thinks of all the moments that led up to them becoming a couple, and how committing himself to her had scared him to death.

          Now he stands before the very reason it scared him so; Sue lies before him, dead, gone forever. He is as alone in life as he is in this room, with the added pain of loss that his demons promised him would come. In the cold stillness he cries, tears falling down to splash onto the cold steel of the surgical table. To Mason, this is always the end result of love. It is simply what life has taught him, and has always handed him. No matter where he goes, no matter how far he runs or how hard he tries, the shadow of Death and his scythe are always just a step behind.

          Sue’s skin is pale and cold as he brushes the hair from her forehead. He remembers the first time he had walked her to her car from her office, when they stood in front of the elevators staring at each other’s reflections. He remembers watching her car drive away from the parking garage, leaving him standing there feeling lonely; the same exact feeling that fills him now.

          Gently he rubs the back of his hand along her cheek, brushing a finger across her lips. He will need to make sure her parents are notified, so they can claim the body and have a proper funeral. Mason will not be there for that. Funerals serve no purpose for the dead, they only sooth the needs of the living. Mason will say his goodbyes here today, now, alone and in private the way he prefers it. Bending down he kisses her for the last time. He tries to leave, but finds it impossible to pull himself away. He knows the moment he leaves, this will all become permanent, final, and he will never look upon her face again. He lingers there, not knowing where to go, tears of sorrow and pain falling from his face onto the cold steel table.

*    *    *    *

          Down the hall two detectives are staring at a computer screen. “Jim, you see this? Susan Peterson. She’s tied to that vehicle in the bank incident a few months ago.”

          “What incident?”

          “Hang on, let me find it.”

          The detective pulls up a new screen, types new keywords, and the computer searches through Detroit’s database of nefarious criminal events. After several seconds, the associated report appears.

          “Here, this is it. Remember this? Some guy tried to rob a couple at the drive-thru ATM and the passenger got out and beat him to death. They traced the plate back to a Susan Peterson in New York. Jesus Jim, that’s her. And that means Stone…wait hold on, I know there’s a picture of…”

          On the monitor appears the picture of Mason’s face, the cold blank stare of the killer, taken from the security camera of the drive thru of Detroit First National.

          “Jesus Christ Jim. We’ve got him.”

          City-issued police handguns slide from their holsters as the two detectives hurry down the hallway. They now know that in the room with the body of Sue Peterson is a brutal killer that the city has been after for months. They pause just outside the room, each making sure the other is ready. A hand that has done this a hundred times before rests on the cold doorknob. There should be no resistance, an easy arrest, but the weapon safeties are off just in case. There is eye contact, a nod, and the tightening of fingers on gun handles. The door opens, and they enter the cold room, weapons raised.

          In the room is only the lifeless body of Sue on the steel table. The sheets covering her pale flesh have been tucked underneath her, an attempt to shield her body from the cold hard table; to make her comfortable even in death. Lying beside her head is a note, placed on top of tear drops that have caused some of the ink to blur, but the words are still readable. It’s the name and phone number of Sue’s parents, and a message;

          “Treat her with respect, or I will come back for you.”