Marcel awoke with a start and for a second couldn’t remember where he was. There was nothing but darkness then he saw the red digital display of the clock on Susan’s side of the bed. It was 3:16 in the morning and Marcel knew he had better get moving soon. Her husband got off at six and Susan would want to, she would have to, change the sheets. Marcel thought about waking Susan up. They had three hours so why waste it on sleep? But there was a sound and Marcel sat up and looked into the blackness. Susan’s husband worked nights so he had gotten some of those blackout curtains that turned the bedroom into an unlit cave. What was that sound? It was a unfamiliar sound but it was not forgotten. A sound that lasted for just an instant but heard during sleep was like trying to figure out what was seen an instant before the lights had been turned on.
Marcel hadn’t slept well since that damn kid had run out in front of him on a skateboard, wait, two years ago? Marcel didn’t realize the kid was dead until the next day. Of course, it was the kid’s fault, anyone could have seen that, but Marcel was drunk, really drunk, and even really drunk he knew he couldn’t stop. So what? The kid was from that foreign family that moved in from some place that even the locals can’t pronounce their own names, Scoakat, Scoalkit, what was that kid’s name? Marcel had to pay that damn crook of a body shop owner five grand in cash to get his car fixed without a fuss, but it looked brand new in just two days. Marcel had helped the family sell their house a year later and he saw that skateboard in the kid’s room.
Marcel tried to clear his head but they had drank far too much wine and Susan had given him a Xanax. Marcel felt foggy and… cigarette smoke. Susan didn’t smoke often but when they were drinking she would sit on the porch and smoke. That behemoth she married hated the smell of cigarettes; had Susan got up and smoked inside the house? Smoking was Susan’s form of open rebellion just as sex was her form of secret rebellion. But that wasn’t Marcel’s problem. He ought to leave sooner than later.
Susan had been hot, truly hot, in High School. Marcel remembered their first and only date as if it were last night. But Susan had been hung up on dating a football player and even back then she gravitated towards Larry, who had been a dimwitted linebacker. Marcel knew that monster wasn’t smart enough to know what kind of woman Susan was and could be, but Marcel did. Susan was going to be stimulated by sneaking around and getting sex from whoever was discreet enough to bang her and then leave her alone. She had been that way five years ago and she was still that way now. Susan had cut Marcel off for a few years but he began to see the boredom in her eyes when she came in to bank to pay their mortgage. Why would she come in and pay when she could have set up auto-pay online? She wanted more. She wanted to do something risky and exciting and Marcel was more than happy to help. The woman might never leave that creature she married but she sure as hell wasn’t going to turn down sex with someone who was her intellectual equal.
Marcel was about to get out of the bed when he saw it. A small red-orange light across the room was just hovering there and Marcel tried figure out what it might be. The light on a power strip, maybe or the… the orange light moved up and brightened. Marcel saw the face of Larry DeMurrey in the light of the cigarette. The light flared then faded and the total darkness returned except for the tip of the cigarette and the clock which now read 3:18.
He was frozen in place. Marcel slowly moved his foot over to Susan’s and nudged her leg. The moment he did it Marcel realized it might be a mistake, but he didn’t think he could make things much worse than they already were. Marcel was mistaken.
“Want some more?” Susan mumbled. “Get on top of me.”
He nudged her leg harder and slipped his hand over to where she was and pinched her shoulder.
“Don’t hurt me.” Susan snapped at him. “What’s wrong with you?” She slid over to Marcel’s side of the bed and he pushed her back, hard.
The tip of the cigarette flared again and Marcel wondered if he should get up and try to find his clothes in the dark. Maybe he should just make a run for the door. But Larry was sitting in the chair right next to the door. Marcel wondered if he could just slip out unnoticed. Maybe he should try to leap through one of the windows. Those heavy curtains might keep him from being cut to hell and back. His phone! Marcel would call 911 and surely Larry wouldn’t kill him, but he had left his phone in the car and the car at an empty house.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Susan asked and she reached over and turned on the light on the nightstand.
“Oh shit.” Susan whispered.
Both Marcel and Susan saw that Larry was sitting in the chair beside the door, smoking a cigarette and holding a pistol in his right hand.
“Good morning!” Larry said cheerfully as he stood up.
Susan screamed. Marcel decided that whatever happened he needed to be anything but nude so he got out of bed and reached for his pants. Maybe Larry was just going to beat the hell out of Susan, and in this brief thought, Marcel realized that a severe beating was best case scenario. The pistol collided with the back of Marcel’s skull and Marcel hit the floor hard. Marcel’s mind shut down. He could hear and he could see but dots were not connecting. He rolled over and noticed there was a spider on the ceiling. If that thing would have fallen on them in the middle of everything…Marcel’s mind wandered off without him.
“Larry, no, please don’t, please, don’t do this,” Susan begged, “please!”
“Well, well, well,” Larry said as he advanced on Susan. “What do we have here? What? Do? We? Have? Here?” and he pushed Susan down to the floor as he reached the bedside table. “Handcuffs?” he said loudly as he picked them up. “Susan! Your never told me you liked handcuffs. Here, let’s try them on.”
Larry reached down and picked Susan up by her hair and Susan fought, kicked, screamed and tried to do anything and everything to get away from her husband but she knew there was nothing she could do. When they played Larry could wear her out just by pinning her down and letting her expend her energy before she would, inevitably surrender. But Larry was also a guard at the prison and knew how to take large men down and handcuff them. Susan stopped struggling and heard the click of the cuffs and she knew whatever Larry wanted to do to her he was going to do to her and there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
Larry picked her up by her hair again and Susan resisted the urge to try to talk Larry out of whatever he was going to do. He threw her down on top of Marcel and Susan rolled over away from Marcel’s limp body and rolled under the bed. She panted with fear and fatigue. Larry threw the bed across the room with one hand and Susan knew, truly knew, that this was a man who meant to kill her.
“You think I didn’t know about him?” Larry was calm, far too calm, for Susan’s liking. She could talk him out of a rage, but this was something different.
“Larry, I cheated on you.” Susan said, swallowing hard. “But you of all people ought to know what will happen to you if you get put in prison.”
“What will happen to me in prison?” Larry said the words as if he had expected them. “What if something like that happens to you right now? What if I take this pistol and show you a few things about what happens in prison?”
“Larry, please don’t.” Susan said but she knew if he wanted to violate her he was going to. She suddenly had a clear image of being raped by the pistol and Larry pulling the trigger while it was inside of her. “Larry, please don’t.” and Susan realized that pleading, begging, and hoping, was all that she had left.
Susan froze, unable and unwilling to put up a fight as Larry straddled her. His gentleness was obscene now and Susan knew that if she fought back it would enrage him and give him an impetus to attack her more violently. Susan closed her eyes and tried to relax her body as Larry turned her over. It won’t last forever, Susan told herself. Scream if you have to, but don’t fight him. Let him do what he wants for as long as he wants but don’t try to get away and don’t fight. Susan began to quiver involuntarily as Larry uncuffed her. To her surprise he pulled her up and put his arms around her from behind, and handed her the gun.
“Remember when I taught you to shoot?” Larry whispered. “Just remember to hold the gun tight, both hands, now, and slowly squeeze the trigger.” Larry took her hands in his, and aimed the gun and Marcel’s crotch. “Slowly, slowly, just like I showed you how.”
“I can’t Larry, I can’t shoot him, listen to me, this is bad, I know I’ve done something bad, but murder isn’t the way out.” Susan thought about trying to turn the gun on Larry, trying to hold him at bay with it, calling 911, but she knew if she failed it would mean the death of her.
“Come on now, just one shot,” Larry said. He the gun go entirely and held Susan by her wrists. “You can do it.”
Susan tried to think. The nearest neighbor was only a quarter of a mile away. They would, they might, hear the shot. They might call 911 when they heard the shot. If she fired the gun into the wall or the floor someone might hear the shot and call the police. Susan began to shake and she knew that in a few minutes, one way or another, things would be either very bad or worse than that.
Susan started to raise the gun, started to move the barrel up just enough to miss Marcel entirely. At that exact instant Larry’s head began to clear. Suicide was the only way out of this if Marcel died. Larry didn’t think he could kill Susan, not even as mad as he was, and there was no point in dying or killing for a woman who was on her way out. Larry started to take the gun away from Susan just as Susan began to fire. The gun roared and kicked and Susan fumbled it as she screamed. A dark hole appeared in Marcel’s chest and blood flowed out of the hole as Marcel convulsed, his eyes wide and his teeth clenched. All of this happened in less than a second, less than the time it takes to blink an eye. The gun tumbled to the floor and landed loudly in the terrible silenced that filled the room. Larry and Susan sat on the floor too stunned to speak as both of their ears rang from the sound.
“Oh shit.” Susan whispered.