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I was walking home from the store when my cell rang. It had already been a long day and I was hoping it wasn’t work. I reached into my coat pocket, grabbed the phone and flipped it open. “Detective Shade here, talk to me.”
My wife’s best friend was on the other end, talking fast and sounding flustered. “Jimmy? Oh my god, you gotta get home. I came over and found Lisa on the floor. She isn’t responding to me and I don’t know what to do!” Her voice trailed off as if she was about to start sobbing.
“Call 9-1-1 right now! I’m a couple blocks from the house and will be there as quick as I can.” I closed the phone and dropped it in my pocket. The bag with the milk I just bought was still gripped under my arm. I shifted the bag into a football hold and started running; I was only two blocks away from home, just a quick sprint. I started thinking of Lisa, hoping that everything was okay.
It took me a few minutes to reach my home. It was only 7 o’clock in the evening and the sun still gave off enough light for me to see the front door open slightly. I hesitated long enough to look around. I didn’t see anyone, and the street seemed to look normal for this time of the day. I took the steps two at a time and rushed into the house. What I saw startled and frightened me at the same time.
My wife, Lisa, was lying face up in the middle of the living room. Her best friend, Anna, was standing over her, fighting tears. She turned as I walked into the room. “Jimmy, I came over and the door was open. I called for Lisa and when she didn’t reply I came in and found her like this. I didn’t know what else to do.”
I rushed over to my wife. I put my fingers to her throat and let out a sigh of relief. She was still alive. I tried to shake her, but she didn’t budge. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Lisa was the best thing in my life. Through ten years of marriage she was always the voice of reason, the rock in our relationship. I couldn’t lose her. I looked over my shoulder at Anna. She was just standing there, shaking and wrenching her hands.
“She has a pulse Anna. It’s weak, but its there. Did you call 9-1-1? Are they sending an ambulance?”
“I called and they said they were sending emergency services. They said it would take about 20 minutes. That was right after I called you.”
I turned my attention back to Lisa and took her hand in mine. It felt sweaty and warm but she didn’t even flinch. I lowered my head and whispered, “It’s gonna be okay babe, the ambulance is on the way. You’re gonna be fine.” I really hoped that was true.
I turned my head towards Anna. All I saw was something short and black rushing towards my head with a whistling sound. I tried to raise an arm to protect myself. I felt something hard hit my temple and I crumpled to the floor. I tried to resist but another blow hit me. Everything went quiet and dark.
The pain in my head was blinding. I tried to breathe but something was in my mouth. It felt like some kind of cloth and I could taste something salty. I tried to reach to take it from my mouth but my wrists were bound behind me in what felt like cold steel. I could feel something solid behind my shoulders and realized I was propped against a wall. Trying to push past the pain, I opened my eyes and tried to focus. As far as I could tell, I was in my living room. I could see my legs stretched out in front of me, some kind of wire tied at my ankles. Something wet was running down the side of my head, the smell of blood in my nostrils. The curtains had all been closed and the only light came from a dim lamp on the wall above me, hurting my eyes.
I looked to the left and saw that Lisa was still lying on the floor, in the same position as when I first came in. Anna was leaning over her and I noticed that she had a gun in her hand. I tried to speak. “Anna, what the fuck is going on? What are you doing?” My voice sounded weak and muffled, yet my head twinged at the sound. Whatever was in my mouth wasn’t letting much sound out. I felt like I was hallucinating. Something about this didn’t feel right.
Anna stood up and turned to face me. There was something different about her face. I had seen her nearly everyday for the past eight years, yet right now it was like I was staring at a total stranger. Her eyes looked cold and the aura of anger seemed to emanate from her very core.
“What was that? I can’t understand you with your mouth full.” She walked over to me and crouched down. As she got closer, I noticed the gun was exactly like mine. She pulled the object from my mouth, and I realized it was my own tie. I felt her breath on my ear as she whispered, “If you make a sound, I will end your life, but not until I kill Lisa in front of you.”
Anna stood and started waving the gun around, as if to emphasize her words. “I bet you’re wondering what is going on,” she said, in an even, controlled voice. “It’s actually very simple. I have waited, very patiently, and now it’s time for some payback. You took something from me a long time ago, and now you are going to pay for that. Twenty years is a long time to wait, but I have to admit that it has been worth it to finally see you in this position.” She placed one hand on her hip and smirked. “Do I remind you of anyone? Do you even know what I am talking about?”
I tried to turn my head to answer her, but it sent a wave of pain through me. “Anna, I haven’t got any idea of what the fuck you’re talking about. There’s got to be some kind of mistake here. I didn’t even know you twenty years ago!”
My cheek stung as she backhanded me. “Bullshit! This is no mistake Jimmy dear. See if this jogs your memory!” She pulled a folded piece of paper from her pants pocket. With one hand she whipped it open and began to read. “June 30th, 1998. David Weston, night clerk at the Quickmart on Randall Avenue was shot and killed during the commission of a robbery. Police were called to the scene by an anonymous witness. Before the officer was able to subdue the suspect, Mr. Weston was shot twice and reported dead at the scene.”
My memory snapped back to that time. Twenty years ago, to the day. I was a rookie, on the job less than a year. I remember the call coming in as my partner and I were sitting in our cruiser. We hit the lights and sped toward the address. It was chaotic in the store. The suspect, a young man about twenty had his gun trained on Mr. Weston. I froze up. I didn’t know what to do. My partner was the one who took him down.
“I remember that night. I never fired my gun Anna. It was my partner that killed the robber. Is that what this is about? Did you know him?”
She stood up and walked back over to Lisa. “This is all about that night Jimmy, but not in the way you think. Do you have any idea what it feels like to lose someone you cared about so much? To lose the one person that always loved and supported you? What you took from me can never be replaced, but I can give you an idea of how I have felt for the past twenty years.”
I watched as Anna knelt down and pointed the gun at Lisa’s forehead. “Please Anna, don’t do this! Lisa isn’t a part of this. She has been nothing but good to you. If you have to punish someone, then punish me!” She ignored my pleas and I watched, in horror, as she wrapped her index finger around the trigger. She turned her head slightly, giving me a small sadistic smile. She pulled the trigger, and I would swear that I saw the bullet leaving the barrel as it was fired into Lisa’s head.
Time seemed to stop. I felt the heat of tears well up in my eyes and I began to struggle against my shackles. In my mind’s eye I broke out of the cuffs, tackled Anna, and wrapped my hands around her neck, squeezing the life out of her. I snapped out of it, realizing just how helpless I was. I could hear my voice, stronger through my misery, yelling at Anna. “No! You bitch, how could you? I’ll fucking end you for that!”
Within seconds, Anna was back at me, putting the gun to my head. “Don’t! Don’t make a sound or I will blow your fucking head off!” She quickly jammed the tie back into my mouth and stood back up. “Protect and serve Jimmy! That is your job, all you had to do. Protect and serve!” I felt a piercing pain in my ribs as she kicked me. “If you had done your job, we wouldn’t be here right now. You made this happen! You made me do this! Twenty years ago you started this and now I get to finish it!”
I could feel her kicking me in the ribs, over and over again. The pain seemed to course through my entire body. I tried to keep my eyes open, but all I wanted to do was let go. Anna stopped kicking me and in that brief moment, I turned my head to look at my beautiful wife. I could see only tears blurring my vision.
Something hit me in the chest and took the wind out of me. I could barely hear what was happening, but it seemed like Anna was taunting me. I couldn’t hear everything she said, but I was able to make out one sentence. “Now you know!”
Renewed pain hit me. I could feel myself losing consciousness, darkness wrapping around me like a blanket. I tried to take a breath but it felt like I had been running uphill for days. I closed my eyes and saw Lisa in my mind, summoning me with her beautiful smile.
I love you, babe! I’m coming!
It was dark. I could feel the pain in my head. My chest felt tight and I had a hard time taking a breath. I opened my eyes and saw bright light. Was this heaven? Did Anna kill me? My brain didn’t want to remember but I had to. I tried to sit up but someone pushed me back down.
“Hey man, calm down. You need to calm down and lay back. The doctor is on his way.” It was my partner. “Damn Jimmy, you can’t just get right up. You gotta take it slow.”
I opened my eyes again and could barely make out his figure. “What happened Kevin? Where am I? Where is Anna?”
“You are at Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital. You have been in a coma for two weeks. You were shot. Doctor said if the bullet had been two inches to the left you wouldn’t have made it.” He shook his head. “You had us scared but they say you’ll be okay.”
I tried to process what he had said. “What about Anna? She shot Lisa and had me tied up. She said it was payback. Payback for what?”
“We got her in a cell. Her real name is Maggie Weston. She wouldn’t say much else except you had to pay for your crime. Seems crazy to me.”
At the sound of that name I shook my head. Not so crazy.
“Kevin, I’m the reason her father is dead. She waited twenty years to make me pay for that.” I closed my eyes. The tears felt warm as they ran down my face. I lost the love of my life for a mistake I made twenty years ago.