Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 26: Paid in Full
The prompt this week was to open the book we are currently reading, and begin our story with the first sentence of the fifth paragraph on Page 40. The fifth paragraph on Page 40 of my book only contained one sentence, and it is highlighted. The book it’s from is called Brimstone, and it was written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I’ve read many of their books, and have enjoyed them all.
Paid in Full
“Have we met?” I said, as I sat down next to her. There were few empty seats in this car, which hopefully made my approach less suspicious.
I hated riding trains, but the time had come for me to confront her. I doubted she would recognize me since I was just a kid when her trial was held, but I had to know for sure. She glanced over at me with rheumy eyes. I had been shadowing her, but until now, hadn’t been physically close enough to make contact. Her appearance placed her decades beyond her actual age of 31.
“No…I don’t think so…I don’t know.” Her voice was raspy and her breath reeked of alcohol. Her confusion was evident. I had effectively set the wheels in motion.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s only that you look like someone I had met years ago. Apparently, I was mistaken.”
She released the tight grip on her handbag. That’s it. Relax. That way, you’ll never see it coming.
“It certainly is a nice day, isn’t it? I mean, for a long walk. It’s not possible to walk all the way downtown, of course, but a pleasant day to window shop, wouldn’t you agree?” I needed to keep the conversation moving along.
“Yes, I suppose so.” Her response was barely above a whisper.
She was obviously very uncomfortable with every day chit-chat. Get used to it, lady. This conversation’s going to get a lot darker.
“I knew someone years ago who loved to go for long walks, especially in the downtown area. It was great for her because it was safe to cross the streets because of all the traffic lights. She lived outside the city where there were no traffic lights at all. It wasn’t safe to walk there along the side of the road. People always drove at high speeds down those roads since they knew there were no traffic lights, but in the downtown area, there are traffic lights every block or so. Don’t you agree that traffic lights make it much safer to cross the streets?”
Her hands began to tremble. I attributed that to two possible causes. One would be her inescapable need for a drink and the other would be my constant mention of traffic lights. I prayed it was the latter.
“Yes, that’s true,” she said quietly. “It’s better with the lights.”
“Should be, in theory,” I continued, primed and ready to strike. “It isn’t always however, since just because a traffic light turns red, that’s no guarantee all drivers will stop. There are those who don’t even slow down. I’m sure you’ve seen those kinds, haven’t you? They’re not all bad though. I mean, some are folks who work all night and are on their way home, and they nod off behind the wheel briefly and fail to stop. That’s sad enough for all concerned. But then, there are the other kind – the ones that are lower than low. I’m talking about those who go out and party all night and drink themselves stiff and come up on a red light and see it as a challenge. They floor it and blow through the light and if they hear a thump as they go through the intersection, they don’t stop. Why bother. I mean, they’ve got another party to get to. You know the type of person I’m referring to, don’t you?”
Her eyes filled with tears and her hands shook so strongly, she knocked her handbag to the floor. I heard a thud when it landed. There’s a flask full of hooch in there. I’ll bet my condo and my baseball card collection on it, and I’d win hands down.
“Let me get that for you ma’am.” I’m such a thoughtful bastard.
As soon as I handed her the purse, she pulled out a flask, took a quick look around for the conductor, and took a nice big gulp.
“I’m ill,” she said. “I don’t do this all the time, you see. You won’t tell on me, will you?”
If only someone had the guts to do just that ten years ago, bitch, you’d be behind bars right now.
“Of course not,” I smiled.
Drink up. The yellow tinge around your eyes and fingertips isn’t quite dark enough. Your liver must be having quite the picnic. I just figured out why she takes this train downtown every Wednesday. She gets off at the downtown terminal, walks five blocks to the Medical Plaza, and takes the elevator to the 5th floor. I never followed her beyond the lobby, but I know that entire floor belong to a clinic whose physicians treat patients with hepatitis and those needing liver transplants. I thought she went to have lunch with a friend who works there, but apparently she’s one of their patients, and hopefully, is on a downhill slide.
“Speaking of those who drink and drive, ma’am, you know what happened to that friend of mine, the one who loved long walks? She was taking one of those, browsing the shops, and she crossed one of the streets downtown. It was at a light, of course; she always crossed at one of those, and the light was red for oncoming traffic. Wouldn’t you know, one of those all night partiers ran her down, right there in the middle of the crosswalk? My friend bounced off the car and flew 25 feet onto the sidewalk on the other side of the street. She was dead on impact.
“The driver, who was a woman, by the way, did pull over briefly, then drove away. She never got out of the car or called the police or an ambulance. She just drove away. I heard there were witnesses who did report the accident and the woman ended up being arrested, but her daddy had lots of money. She pled not guilty due to some kind of extenuating circumstances. The witnesses’ memories had faded, and some shrink testified about childhood trauma. It was probably being passed around from nanny to nanny. Whatever, it was all bullshit. Anyhow, the jury found her not guilty and she walked away without even a slap on the wrist. Can you believe that?”
I’ll bet you can believe it, Miss ‘my-daddy-can-get-me-out-of-anything’. In case you’ve forgotten, that girl you murdered that day with your car was my older sister, Becky. Do you remember how it sounded when your car struck her? Did you see her broken body bounce off your car and fly across the street and land in a bloody heap?
I was in court and saw the pictures of your handiwork on her body when the Prosecutor held them up. Your Mommy and Daddy were right by your side in the courtroom. Lucky you. I only had my Daddy back then. My Mommy killed herself after Becky’s funeral. She couldn’t bear the pain. Now, my Father’s dead and buried too. Drank himself to death after the verdict. You didn’t just kill Becky, you see. You killed my whole family.
“That’s very bad…I mean, very sad. It’s bad too.” Her voice trembled. “Sometimes though, people can’t always do the right thing, even if they want to.”
What garbage are you trying to hand out now?
“I’m not sure I understand.” This, I’ve got to hear.
“I only meant, if a bad thing happens, and a person wants to try to fix it, but doesn’t know how, she gets scared. She hopes her family will help make things right. But, her family doesn’t want things made right; they want the bad thing to go away. They have doctors give her pills and tell her she’d better not…I mean, a person’s family won’t let her...and then they send her away and she…”
She started coughing so hard, I thought she’d pass out. She pulled a handkerchief from her handbag and spit into it. The blood soaked through onto her hand and began to run down her arm. I pulled mine from my pocket and handed it to her. She nodded and blotted her arm and her lips. She put both handkerchiefs in her handbag and pulled out her flask. Her hands were shaking so badly now, she couldn’t open it, so I opened it for her. This time, she didn’t sip; she took a long drink.
I took a close look at this woman who had killed my sister and who I’d thought never paid for it. But even now, ten years later, I could see she still remembered what she had done. I could also see that she was dying. Shouldn’t her vivid memories of a life she’d taken and her own imminent death be payment enough?
Becky, I promised I wouldn’t rest until I made her pay for what she did to you. I believe it’s time for us all to rest. She has paid, my beloved sister. In full.