The rain was still falling as Larry drove to work at the prison. He had no illusions as to what would come his way eventually. Susan and Marcel had been texting one another on a daily basis for two months now and had exchanged a lot of emails. Susan starting sending texts to Marcel as soon as Larry had left for work every night and the two had talked for hours. Even as Larry passed the last house at the end of the road where they lived he knew Susan, to keep up appearances, was sending emails and texts to a dead man. It might be a while before Marcel’s car was found. Susan told him Marcel always parked in the garage of a house that was for sale and Susan would pick him up there. To keep his wife from knowing where he was he would turn his phone off. Now that phone was sitting in the car, sitting in the garage, of a house that Marcel would never sell. How long would it take before his wife started looking for him? How long before they missed him at work? Marcel was a known party animal, loved the night life, and so Larry thought it might be a couple of days before anyone thought anything was wrong. If there was a merciful God in Heaven then they would get a week before anyone made any serious attempt to find Marcel. But at the most, in ten days, someone was going to read Susan’s texts and emails and then the investigation would lead to his front door. Susan would pretend to be mad at Marcel for cutting off communications and call his office pretending to look for a new house. She would keep it up for at least a week and then slowly stop trying to contract Marcel who in a week might be under two hundred feet of concrete. Larry hoped Marcel was seeing someone else, other than Susan, and he wondered how deep the investigation might go. But until there was a body there wasn’t a murder and Larry hoped Marcel’s wife would simply think he had ran off with some other woman. But deep down Larry knew that if someone went missing and that someone was seeing a married woman, the husband was going to be looked over very carefully. How he acted at work might be questioned. Everything that he did would be now be considered normal or not normal and Larry had never once wondered what would happen if he had to act like himself. Larry got out of his truck and fished his ID out of his pocket and scanned it, and then went inside.
Susan took a deep breath and looked over the texts she has sent over the last couple of days. They would look very much like those she had sent, and received, over the last eight weeks or so. She, too, knew that soon she might be sitting across a table with page after page of her innermost thoughts printed out and part of a public record in an investigation. What was worse is she had to keep adding to the volume of work. Susan sent a message chiding Marcel for standing her up and asking him for an explanation. She would send a few more and the tone would get angrier and angrier. Susan had been stood up by Marcel before, when his wife was suspicious, but he always sent a text within a few hours. Susan also pulled up her account with a local furniture store. They had once offered new flooring with every new refrigerator someone bought and she had filled out all the information but never completed the transaction. She had hoped the price had dropped but it never did. If the offer was still up they could get imitation Oak on the floor and that would explain the carpet being gone. But they had to do all of this very slowly.
She sent another text and thought about more wine. No, sober was better right now. Wine was one of those little things, one of those small sharp pieces of a sandspur caught in an ankle sock. Larry gulped wine, good wine, and never once thought that it might be more than just a buzz. Beer was his alcohol of choice and wine had to be cold and sweet for him to drink it. A good solid Cab meant nothing to the man. Marcel knew wines, loved talking about wines, and Susan loved wine, too. She wanted to go to Napa Valley and just spend a week tasting wine. Larry wanted to go fishing for five days and drink beer until he passed out and snored. Susan sent a text and scolding Marcel for being a coward. Did he see Larry’s truck parked outside the house last night? Is that what spooked him? Was the threat of getting caught greater than what she could do for him? Susan knew it was. She knew all that she had ever been to Marcel was a conquest, a number he could count up when he thought about how many women he had slept with, and Susan knew that was all it would have ever been. It would be easy to believe that Marcel had found some young thing and gotten carried away with being with a younger woman and simply left for a while. Marcel’s wife was used to her husband’s excuses for not being hone and Susan wondered how in the hell… But now she would find out. Susan bit her lip and tried not to start crying again. Larry might still leave her and she wasn’t sure that was what she wanted, even now, especially now. They had talked about what the detectives would say if they came, when they came, and they had talked about how Larry was going to react to reading the texts and emails. Susan knew that she just might land Larry in prison and hell, she might go too. But even if they got away with it, deep down in her heart, Susan thought she was going to lose him anyway. But why not? She had instigated the affair and she had reveled in it. Susan had known Larry might find out, but what was he going to do? The idea he might kill Marcel and even kill her, was always in the very back of her mind but she always thought it would end in divorce. She never thought of it ending with her and Marcel together. But now he was dead. Susan closed her eyes and prayed for forgiveness. Her inability to handle the post High School life of a cheerleader had led to this. A man was dead and another was helping cover up a murder because she had gotten bored. Susan wondered how it would feel to simply walk into the police station and tell them what she had done and serve the time due her. Susan decided that if they were caught she would confess. She sat down and wondered if she would go to hell for this.
Larry scanned his ID again and was checked for weapons by the first set of guards. “Evening, Larry,” Mitch said, and Larry wondered how many times they had gone through this.
“Evening, Mitch,” Larry replied, “hear your youngest made the football team.” Larry couldn’t remember the kid’s name.
“Yep,” Mitch said, “but if’n he don’t get his grades up he’ll be watching from the stands.”
And that was that. Larry marveled at how calm he sounded, how normal it seemed to be at work. Larry walked into the breakroom and got a two cups of coffee and a tray. He walked down the corridor and through two more checkpoints and then he was there.
“Morning, DeMurrey,” the guard said. Larry didn’t recognize him. He must be a replacement for one of the three Federal Agents who were there to watch over the prisoners after one had committed suicide last year. Larry thought it ironic they would guard someone from suicide when that person was there to be executed but the Feds were like that. “She’s waiting for you.”
“So, Larry,” Christa stopped setting up the chess pieces said as he entered her cell, “about last night…” Larry wondered how this woman came to be here and not for the first time. Even in a black Death Row jumpsuit Christa Fuller looked beautiful. No, Larry stopped and looked at her again, elegant? No, there wasn’t a word he could think of but each time Larry saw Christa he paused, and he noticed her, as if it were the first time.
Larry felt a cold chill run up his spine but he tried to vamp his way through it, “I wasn’t on top of my game.”
“Weren’t you?” Christa laughed at him. “You finally got to know me a little better last night, Larry, you understand at last what makes me get up every morning and move forward. Now, we truly have something in common, don’t we?”
“What do you mean?” Larry swallowed hard. She didn’t know. She couldn’t know.
“Ever wonder what it would be like to be able to see in the dark?” Christa asked. “What if you could and no one else? What would it mean if you were the only one, or at least one of the few, would could see what no one else could see, even if you couldn’t predict when you could see it?” Christa laughed and stood up. “What if I told you that none of the conversations we have ever had were recorded?”
“What?” Larry was stunned. “Why wouldn’t they be?”
“That was one of the items that came up in the lawsuit.” Christa told him. “Poor Mr. Malcom Petty felt like he was under a microscope all the time and that’s one of the central reasons he killed himself.” She laughed again, “No, that isn’t vision, Larry, that’s straight from my lawyer. That’s the reason that they allow you to play with me. But they cannot spy on us and they never will.”
“They told me…” But Larry stopped and thought about it. When the Feds debriefed him after each visit they always seemed surprised at what he told them. They really didn’t know.
“They’re pretty sure they have me now, you know” Christa say down again, “but they aren’t really sure what information they can use if they get it illegally. That only applies to me. If they find out what you’ve done I’m pretty sure you’ll be housed a few doors down.”
“What do you want?” Larry demanded.
“I’ll tell you when the time comes.” Christa said. “But right now you and I need to play chess. Your openings are improving but you’re letting me distract you from the game. I have some things to tell you but I’m sure you’ll not see the wisdom in it until the time comes. Sit. Play. Act normal. We have an hour together. You might as well play your part in this theater that you and I have begun.” Christa smiled at Larry and he felt an odd warmth for her. “We all have our parts to play, like the pieces on the board, Larry. I can help you get off the board.”
Larry drove home in the blinding rain. How many days in a row did this make? It had rained every day for, five, no, a week now, yes. A streak of lightning flashed and Larry saw everything lit up as if it didn’t exist without the light. He wondered if Marcel’s car had been found yet or if anyone had really started looking. No, it was still too soon. Larry pulled into the driveway and got out in the rain and went inside. The house was filled with the smell of bacon and Larry felt some of his tension ease.
“Hey baby,” Susan called to him from the kitchen, “in here!”
There was bacon and eggs and Orange juice on the table and Larry wondered if Susan had gotten up early just for this. He sat down at the table and wondered how to begin to tell her about Christa.
“Is it okay to talk about us right now?” Susan asked before Larry could speak.
“Yeah, okay.” Larry said.
“Look, I’ve done wrong and I know it,” Susan began, “but I want you to know that whatever happens I still love you. I’m still in love with you.” She paused and then continued. “I can’t take back what I did but I can tell you if you think there is any way at all for us to work this out I will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. You don’t have to answer me right now and I won’t ask anything of you right now, but I just want you to know, okay?” She sat down and Larry realized she had been practicing this. Susan had wanted him to know how she felt and she meant what she said. Larry couldn’t help himself and couldn’t stop the tears. “I love you too” he managed to mumble, “but there’s a problem here.”
“What?” Susan looked a little surprised. “You mean…?”
“No, much bigger than that.” Larry said. “I’ll have to start from the beginning.”
“It was about two months ago,” Larry began and he and Susan exchanged glances, “when we got a prisoner who came into the yard in an armored car. Usually they take the really bad ones to a Federal facility but because she had been convicted in Georgia first we were going to get the first crack at killing her.”
“Her?” Susan asked.
“Christa Marie Fuller.” Larry replied. “And you wouldn’t believe how tiny she really is.”
“The woman they called ‘The Mantis’?” Susan was stunned. “You didn’t tell me about this! Is that the woman they think murdered all those men and drove the rest to suicide?”
“The very one.” Larry replied. “Anyway, the first thing she did was trip and fall, and I caught her. A day after that she offered to disclose where the body of Floyd Carpenter was buried if they would allow her to teach me how to play chess.”
“The Floyd Carpenter?” Susan exclaimed. “The founder of Carpenter Records?”
“The very same,” Larry continued, “and they didn’t know how she knew anything about it. She was seven when he went missing, but the Feds decided that after that, whatever she asked for she was going to get, and that included me.”
“Why you?” Susan asked. “Other than you’re really very hot,” she added hastily.
“That’s the odd part.” Larry said. “She couldn’t have known my name but asked for me by name. The first meeting she wanted to teach me to play chess, and I’m as dumb as a rock as far as that sort of game goes. I thought they had the place wired for sound but today she told me they didn’t. I think she knows, uh, things.”
“Things?” Susan didn’t like the way Larry sounded now. “What things?”
“Two nights ago,” Larry began, “she was telling me that I ought to break my routine, I ought to go home and take care of business. She was pretty empathic about it. That’s what I was doing home.”
Susan didn’t respond so Larry continued.
“Tonight she asked me how it went.” Larry took a deep breath. “I think somehow she knows what we did.”
“That’s not possible, Larry.” Susan said but she wasn’t sure she believed it. “How?”
“She told me tonight that there were times she could see in the dark.” Larry got up and got some more bacon. “Bacon?’ he asked after he realized he had taken the last pieces.
“No, you go ahead,” Susan said but she smiled at him. “Okay, I have to get to work. We have to keep our routines but I want to know more. We’ll talk when I get home, okay?”
“Okay.” Larry replied. “I’m going to get a shower and get some sleep. I’m really tired.”
Susan stood up, hesitated, then walked over and kissed Larry on the top of his head. ‘I’ll wake you when I get in.”
Susan got into her car and despaired at the rain. It was coming down in buckets again. Sheets of rain tore through the now normal downpour and her wipers seemed to just piss it off. It had only been two days, not two full days, and she was still texting and emailing a dead man, just as she had done when he had been alive. It was an odd thing, Susan thought, to know someone was dead, that she had a hand in killing him, yet she was doing her part to avoid being implicated in his death. Susan kept checking her phone at work, as if she were expecting a text or an email, and at lunch she went dropped by the bank and paid the mortgage, even if it was a week early. She hung around and chatted with one of the tellers and Susan made sure to glance towards Marcel’s office more than once. Yet it has only been two days. Likely, just now, someone was wondering if something was wrong.
Susan stopped long enough to eat a salad and pondered why Larry hadn’t told her one of the most famous female serial killers of all time was less than a half hour drive from their home. Oh, and he had taken up chess and fortune telling with, Susan searched for the name, Christa Fuller, and the name brought the vision of a bright eyed, dark haired woman who couldn’t have been more than five-two yet had managed to get three men to kill for her and three more to kill themselves, that everyone knew of so far. And now Floyd Carpenter? Susan wondered why she hadn’t heard about any of this in the news. If they found Floyd Carpenter after nearly…how long? Susan shook her head and tried to focus on keeping her schedule. She texted Marcel again, this time threatening to break up with him if he didn’t call her tonight.
It was raining even harder when Susan left work. She was one of the two dental hygienists in town who had lived in Jacksonville Georgia all their lives and she knew who was sleeping with… Susan paused at that thought. How many people knew about her and Marcel? She counting the times they had been together. Since the first of last month, four, no, five times. But three of those times had been in the last month. Still, Marcel was nothing if he wasn’t careful. They always met after dark and they never took their cell phone on dates. Susan wondered when they would find Marcel’s car. She wondered how long it would take before his wife reported him missing. Larry had already left for work when Susan arrived. The house was silent and dark. Susan sent an angry text to a dead man and took a Valium to help her sleep.