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As silent as death, Mister sat in the darkness of his car, one word pounding over and over in his head in nauseating repetition. Fifty- three, fifty- three, fifty- three. Endlessly the neural pathways of his brain fired it- a ghost haunting his skull. He looked up at the numbers on the house. Fifty- three. The address of the family he was about to butcher.
His vanilla latte had long gone cold and he’d regretted purchasing it almost immediately. He was jittery enough as it was. Drinking caffeine now would make as much sense as throwing a bucket of sand on the beach. Still, it had amused him to walk into the local Starbucks and order such a decadent beverage on his way to a killing. He walked past the pseudo intellectuals typing away on their lap tops. He imagined they were all most likely distracted from what they were there to do with Facebook or Youtube; Cute little videos of kittens and puppies who became the most unlikely of friends or self important 'vloggers' chatting ceaselessly about some pointless thing. These were amongst the most embarrassing examples of the no-men.
For a brief, blissful moment he could picture the aftermath of his rage which he’d bring down in full on these pitiful no-men. With the doors chained shut, man woman and child would lay wonderfully expired where he struck them down. Their entrails and organs strewn about like ghoulish Christmas tinsel and their rheumy dead eyes,
watching, their rigor mortis mouths agape as he sat amongst them and sipped gingerly at a lactose free low- fat americano miso. Smacking his lips discerningly he would reach for the creamer and salivate with unsatisfied hunger as warm frothy blood poured from the container into his cup. But no. It was not time for such indulgence. Perhaps someday, once his powers were full.
He approached the cute Starbucks girl -a taunt little morsel, blonde, deeply tanned, the posture of a dancer. He briefly considered forgetting all about the home at fifty three Hillside Lane and waiting for her in the parking lot instead. But no, she wasn't relevant enough for his purposes and so pushed the thought from his mind.
“Grande vanilla latte please” he said barely able to squeeze the words out without laughing. She smiled and handed him his change, never suspecting how close she had come to the unveiling of utter horror.
With his coffee in hand he proceeded to number fifty three like it was the most normal thing in the world. Just another day at the office. And wasn’t it normal? Didn’t terrible, violent things happen all the time? Was ‘normal’ not a matter of how frequently a given event occurred as opposed to being any sort of moral judgement? The thought was an interesting one but he didn’t have time to ponder. There was work to do.
He rolled down the window for air and began to slowly unbutton his shirt. He felt like a lover disrobing for the act. The act of possession, of exerting control over another. All that exists in those moments of murder is the singular desire- the only desire: Life. More specifically, the possession of life. They were the purest of all social interactions. The very pillars of existence. Life and death, the negative and positive, the one and zero of the great cosmic program.
He glared up at the bedroom window, which was the only lit room in the house and wondered if he’d get a little petite mort inside. The wife was a long slinky woman he could imagine contorted into delightful shapes.
Shirtless, he grabbed the perfectly clean and pressed white dress shirt hanging in the back seat. As he slipped it on, he appreciated the coolness of the cotton against his warm skin. Calmly and delicately he buttoned up the shirt, careful to not wrinkle it.
From the glove compartment he removed a white tie. Instinctively he began to tie it in a four in hand knot but quickly undid it. It was a special occasion; of course a full Windsor would be more appropriate.
He wrangled off his jeans one leg at a time and grabbed the white slacks folded neatly on the passenger seat next to him. It took a little maneuvering to get them on but he had become good at this.
Mister exited the car into the summer air which was calming and sweet with the scent of someone barbequing nearby. Taking a quick peek around first to make sure he couldn't be seen where he parked along a row of trees he strolled to the trunk and took stock of his props and instruments laid out neatly on a plastic lining.
Looking up again at number fifty three he wondered what the wife was wearing.
Sara Whinner. Such a funny name. How had children used that name to tease her? Sara Whinner dine-her, sixty nine-her perhaps? Then he realized she would have had a different last name before she married. Did they have little Whinners up there, sleeping peacefully in bed? No, no. Best to let it be a surprise.
Gregory Whinner had a bad day. He had little sleep the night before as a dream of his ex woke him early and made it impossible to turn his thoughts from her again. He had run into her at the mall down the street by his house. His mall. A place he had been a thousand times and had never run into her before.
Him and his wife Sara were exiting a shoe store when he practically walked right into Amanda. There was a brief moment of awkwardness as they both processed how to proceed.
They had ended as all intensely passionate loves do: On bad terms with both of them at their worst.
She managed to get composure of herself first. “Greg? Oh wow… How are you?”
“I’m great!” Greg exclaimed trying his best to seem calm and happy. “It’s great to see you. How have you been?”
“Oh you know. I’ve been good. No complaints. This is my husband Trevor”
Trevor was a tall, sophisticated looking man. The kind of guy you would imagine was into the stock market and sailing. Greg took his hand with all the confidence he could muster.
“Pleased to meet you Trevor. This is my wife Sara.”
It was uncanny how much Sara and Amanda looked alike. He was sure it was as obvious to every else as it was to him.
They both greeted Sara warmly but he felt the air around him go cold because it occurred to him that this may be the guy she left him for. He could feel Amanda watching him, watch Trevor, sure that she knew what he was thinking. He forced himself to stop staring.
Though he did have to admit, Amanda looked incredible. Greg wondered if she was as wild with Mr. Fancy pants as she was with him. Had she let him tie her up for a night and slap her around and abuse her until she cried then begged for more? He doubted it. They probably kept dental damns and wet wipes in the night stand.
“- teaching Greg?” was all he caught of Amanda asking him something.
“Are you still teaching?”
“Yeah. Only part time though. I mostly do consulting now.”
“Good, good. I remember you always saying that’s what you’d rather being doing.”
He felt as though it was now his turn to ask how she was doing. What she was up to. If she had children et cetera, et cetera. Tedious questions he didn’t care to ask which would only reveal facts he didn’t care to know. He was sure she and Mr. Khaki Silver Fox were living a happy little life, insulated comfortably with means well beyond his own. They probably had darling little children who were child prodigies in tennis and math and potty trained at birth. She didn’t deserve to have a life like that. The only solace he ever took from the cold and calculated evisceration she performed on him was that he was going to ‘win at life’ as he put it.
That was only seven years ago but it felt much longer. In those days he had dreams of being a hotshot marketing exec. The path seemed so clear and it was only a matter of time before he was living the dream of a corner office, island retreats and an annual six figures.
That was when he still had the ambition of a young man. Before he became a father and got married. Before the second mortgage. Before the two at-fault car accidents which raised his insurance to extortionist heights. Before the realities of his life slowly devoured his dreams.
So fuck her. He would have loved her. He did love her. She deserved to get fucked over like she did to him but here she was, happy and still hot with a tall handsome well-to-do man. He just couldn’t play along with the charade.
“Anyways. We’re in a bit of a rush. Take care.” He said taking Sara by the hand and leading her away. Not the most graceful exit but he didn’t care. Fuck her.
Of course that prompted Sara to inundate him with prying question after question about who she was and the nature of their relationship. How and why they broke up. Why did he seem so angry? He fielded all her questions like a politician. Answering plainly only when it was wise to do so and lying at points for the same reason. He had to force himself to remain calm as they talked about it. Amanda was the last thing he wanted to discuss period, let alone with Sara. He knew of course though that if he seemed too upset about running into her it would suggest he still had feelings for her. Otherwise, why still be angry after all these years? Why indeed.
As he sat in bed, pretending to read a trade journal he wondered if the dreams would return to him that night. Perhaps if he had a go with Sara first they could be avoided.
He looked over at her from the corner of his eye. She was a beautiful woman. The type of woman who that made you proud to be seen with. With her wild brown curls, pouty lips and voluptuous breasts, she made even her plaid pajama pants and old Mets t-shirt seem erotic. She made him feel like a lucky man every time he looked at her. It didn’t bother him that she wasn’t sophisticated or opinionated or generally curious about anything that he found interesting. Not that his wife wasn't intelligent. She just didn't feel the need to prove it. He had dated smart, clever woman in the past. Women who were articulate and persuasive and enjoyed a battle of the wits. Women like Amanda. It was his experience that women like that tend to be a pain in the ass. Always struggling for control. Sara was not like that at all. She was secure enough to allow him to be in the driver’s seat. She let him be a man and he loved her for it.
She didn’t notice him watching her. She was too engrossed in her book. Some trashy novel about love smitten vampires, or was it werewolves? Her hair was tied in the back and she had her reading glasses on, which always seemed to turn him on for some reason.
He could imagine the mock innocent smile which she always used whenever he grabbed her around the waist in such a way to make his intentions clear. A little loving would definitely do him some good. His breath felt a bit sour though so he thought it best to brush and take a quick piss before trying to make his move.
“Where are you going?” she asked as he got out of bed.
“Just to the bathroom love. Your book have you a little spooked?” He laughed.
She simply smiled at how well he knew her and buried her face back in the pages. Greg was not in the bathroom two minutes when he heard the phone ring.
He instinctively looked down at his naked wrists where his watch usually would be. He wasn’t sure exactly what time it was but it was late.
He brushed his teeth and emptied his bladder, as it was difficult for him to maintain an erection if it wasn't. Not one step out of the bathroom Greg realized there would be no sex. Sara was in hysterics. Streams of tears soiled her pretty face. Greg’s first thought was that someone has died. It must be her mother. He knew this call would be coming soon.
“Honey, what’s wrong?”
She struggled to get the words out several time but each time a big wet sob chocked her.
“Hey, hey, hey. It’s okay baby.” He said wrapping one arm around her and wiping the tears from her face. He then took the phone and hit last call: Unknown.
“It’s okay. Take your time,” he said, then added with as much delicacy as he could, “Is it you Mother?”
“What?! No! It was some fucking guy.”
The relief of not having to deal with the death of her mother barely registered because now he was confused. No name? Just some guy?
“Some guy? What guy?”
“I don’t know. Just some… guy!”
“Who was it?”
“Greg I don’t know!” she snapped, wiping the tears from her blood shot eyes.
“Okay, okay. Well what did he say? Why are you crying?”
“He said… He said he was going to kill me.”
“What?! Kill you?!”
“Did it sound like your brother? I swear to fucking God if this is one of your brother’s stupid pranks-”
“It wasn’t my brother.” She said with too little conviction for Greg to be sure she was right. He would kick the shit out of that little weirdo if it did in fact turn out to be him. He had once hid a small recorder playing spooky noises in the wall socket of their bedroom. Which of course scared the hell out of her. That one was funny in retrospect but to upset her this badly was not cool.
“It’s okay. Shhh. Shhh. It’s just a prank call. Nobody is going to kill you. I’m here baby.”
“He knew my name! He knew your name!”
So it probably was her brother. He knew if he suggested it again it would only agitate her further so instead he just silently plotted when and how to confront him.
“It was probably just someone we know, playing a stupid joke.”
“Probably?!” She screamed. She had a point. Just the very, very unlikely but possible chance this was real was scary enough. The word Mister entered his mind but he quickly forced it out. He wasn't about to let her brother Kevin get him all worked up too.
“Definitely.” He corrected himself. “What reason would anyone have to hurt you?”
The doorbell chimed and it might of well have been the bells of hell tolling for the reaction it got. The two of them flash froze, holding their breath. He couldn't let her see him scared, it would only throw her into a deeper panic, so he smiled and chuckled genuinely amused at the unexpected knot in his stomach. This was getting ridiculous. He kissed her on the forehead, tasting a slightly salty sheen of sweat.
“Don’t worry. That’s probably you retarded little brother down there laughing his ass off right now.”
“Greg call the police.”
“The police?! No, no. It’s fine. Trust me.” He said trying to convince himself as much as her.
The bell chimed again and as he got up to go answer the door she clutched him with such fear that it broke his heart.“Him who?”
Sara couldn't even bring herself to say his name. She just shook her head back and forth as if trying to shake the name from her mind and Greg realized the same name had occurred to her. Mister.
“Oh come on. Now this is just getting silly. It's not Him. I promise. I’ll be right back.” The bell chimed again and Greg gently pulled himself free for Sara’s grip and headed down stairs.
Do not hit your wife’s brother. Do not hit your wife's brother, he repeated over and over like a mantra as he descended down into the darkness of the first floor. He could see through the frosted rectangular widows on either side of the front door that it was dark on the step. Which meant that the motion sensor wasn’t activated. Which meant that whoever was ringing the bell had left or was standing very, very still.
He walked quietly across the cold tile floor towards the door. He reached for it and hesitated, feeling scared and embarrassed and amused all at once. He shook his head, angry at Sara for working him up like this. As softy as he could, he tip toed into the living room and removed the fire poker from where it lay on the mantle.
With the poker concealed down by his side he opened the door to reveal…
Nothing. Suburban silence. The sprinkler system jutted and sprayed jutted and sprayed. He looked behind the small row of bushes next to the door for good measure. Nada.
He could feel his anger starting to bubble up again. The urge for sex and his thoughts of his ex were gone now and all that he felt was the need to sleep. He wanted this situation to be done with but he was confused. There was no way it was a coincidence that they received that disturbing call and had someone ring their bell only minutes later. This was someone having some fun. He thought about calling out Craig's name to let him know they knew it was him but for a reason he didn’t understand, decided against it.
Closing and locking the bolt he went to make sure the back door was locked knowing Sara would insist he do so anyways. Somewhere in the safety of his home something foreign and unwelcome moved. Two quick footsteps and a mass was on him. A cold object pressed against his neck and a loud clicking sound his mind instinctively tried to place even as painful convulsions overtook him and brought him down to the floor rigid and immobile. Just before the darkness swallowed him he recognized the sound: A stun gun.
Sara sat stiffly in bed trying to bring some semblance of calmness to her mind. Her lungs hungrily sucking at the air. Where was Greg? He had been gone for longer than she expected. He knew how scared she was. Her fear had begun to be undercut by a sour note of annoyance. She was annoyed at herself for feeling this way, and annoyed at Greg for taking so long and really annoyed at her brother Kevin if this was him. She threw the book on the floor and cocked her ear to the side as if angling a satellite dish for better reception.
It was amazing what you could hear when you sat perfectly still. She could hear the barely detectible hum of the light bulb in the lamp next to the bed. She could hear the cool central air gently seeping from the vents and even detect, she thought, the sound of her own heart, thumping wildly like a tiny animal hoping around madly in its cage.
She thought about going to hide in the kid's room. She could tuck the three of them away in the closet but couldn’t stand the thought of Greg teasing her all night when this all turned out to be some sort of stupid joke like he suspected. Maybe it was even him playing this joke. He left the room right as she got that call… would he do something like that?
Then there he was. Impossible but true. His ghostly white mass filling the space of the door frame. She recognized him instantly. He stood perfectly still at the entrance to her bedroom which heightened the surrealism of the moment. He just stood there, unmoving like an ivory statute or a ghost stuck in time. He was facing something else down the hall. She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t even conjure the mental impulse to want to scream. She was petrified and it was only her stomach which seemed to have the ability to react as it tightened and turned once she realized what the intruder was starting at: The children’s room.
Finally her empty lungs found enough her to gasp, followed closely by another and another. Mister slowly turned his head to face her as though just realizing she was there.
He was dressed all in white: White shoes. White pants and shirt. A long white trench coat and hood which hung down low over his face which was also painted white. His tie, his gloves, everything white. Not a single inch of him was not somehow covered with it.
It was the serial killer Mister. This couldn’t be real but it was. What had he done to Greg and why didn’t she hear a struggle? She knew he would do whatever it took to protect his family and so decided right then that he must be dead.
Mister remained very still and watched with a certain sense of satisfaction as Sara struggled with the hopelessness of the situation, grappling with the unbelievable. He could tell she recognized him. He was famous now and all of his victims recognized him. And why shouldn’t they recognize him? He was their nucleus after all.
That of course didn’t mean it wasn’t still fun. It didn’t reduce the act to masturbation or self mutilation. There was still the distinction of him and them, even if it was all so much illusion.
He knew the first step he took towards her would throw her into a frenzy so he let the moment between them stretch out. The tension was exhilarating. He let it grow and swell until it hung in the air between them, thick and dense like a noxious industrial gas.
Finally, he took exactly one theatrical and elaborate step into the room and watched the fear dissolve her like acid dumped on a little flower. Dance puppet.
It was amusing to see her clutching the pillow in front of her like some sort of shield. Indeed it might was well be a real shield for all the good it would do her, but it wasn’t. It was simply a sack of feathers. The phone was right there on the bed. Why didn’t she try to dial for help? Why didn’t she grab the lamp and try to fight him off? Was his will too strong for her? This phenomenon was familiar to him now. The ability to use terror to petrify the no-men. He was the snake charmer, her fear was the flute and he played it in sharp dissonant notes. He knew her type. She would comply. She would cry and try and hid her mind and block out what he was about to do to her but in the end she would comply.
He took another slow step towards her. She was a beautiful manifestation. He inched closer to her captivated by her pretty bloodshot eyes. Her tears were like diamonds streaming from red pools of amber and onyx.
Sara lost her bodily control and wet and suddenly Mister felt his longing getting the better of him. He watched as the wetness darkened the crotch of her pyjamas and slowly spreads outwards. It was just so fucking cute. She had gone and wet herself just like a sweet little baby. His baby. His little baby doll for as long as he wanted her. She was so precious. But he shouldn’t be too gentle with her lest she get spoiled and try and sass him. No, no, no. He would not tolerate any sass.
He wanted to open his mouth and speak. He wanted to introduce himself and explain what he expected from her. But he kept his mouth closed for fear that she would see the red of his tongue or the pink of his gums as he spoke. He would not reveal so much of himself to her. She was not deserving of that. Not yet.
In a flash he was on her and but Sara still found herself unable to move. It was as though the refusal to believe what was happening prevented her body from taking any action which would validate it.
He grabbed her by the hair and tore her off the bed. He then took a handful of her hair by the roots and curled his fist full upwards so to have it taunt by the scalp. They were out in the hallway and headed for the stairs before Sara was able to start struggling.
She kicked and thrashed with her long legs, her hands wildly slapping at him, twisting and turning and flopping and shrieking. Possessed with a single thought: The children will be next.
Mister just laughed at her as though she was a little kitten making hissing sounds. With a sigh of exasperation he grabbed her head with both white gloved hands and bounced it off the high polished glossy hard wood flooring. Then calmly stepped over her and jabbed her in the mouth. He then took a brief moment to observe the red blood smattering across his fist and then leaned over her and appraised her broken and bloody lips.
Sara though she could see his white ghoulish face spread into a smile as he turned and pulled her down the stairs so fast the world around her blurred into a smear and then she was at the bottom, her spine aching, unbearably hot and wet with sweat and blood and urine.
Then, as though he knew the layout of their house as well as she did, he pulled her straight to the door leading to the basement and dragged her down by her ankles and this time she didn't struggle and focused only on taking the steps with minimal injury.
The basement was cool and dark save for the light from the stairway which cut through the door frame in an elongated rectangle. He flipped her over so her face was pushed into the soft carpet and her first thought was that he was going to take her like this, with her face down on the floor of the room where she had some many great nights playing board games with her children and watching movies with Greg once they were in bed. But the rip she expected to her on her pyjama pants never came. Neither did he begin to struggle them down over her hips but instead fastened cold handcuffs around her wrists.
Only once she was secure did she feel his hands touching her buttocks and gripping her around the waist. He then rolled her around, his sinister white painted face sneering down at her like a scornful ghost. He began to slap and squeeze at her with such casual curiosity that it seemed all the more morbid. It was less lustful exploration then a taking of stock as though he was concerned only with the width and roundness and depth of her proportions then of gaining any sexual pleasure from it.
Then his hand was on her crotch, his fingers measuring and gauging. He quickly punched her in it and she cried out in pain. He punched her again and again straight to the genitalia, not as hard as he could but hard enough to cause a sharp ripples of pain to explode around her pelvic bone and shoot up her spine straight to her brain. He grabbed her by the throat he pulled himself in close to her and began to lick at her tears and the blood that still flows freely from her nose and mouth, moaning with satisfaction as though they were the most delicious things he had ever tasted.
Once satisfied from that he slowly rolled off of her and went to a white duffel bag he placed on the sofa behind them. He removed a collar a leash and a hood, all white. He hooked the leash to the collar, strapped the collar around her slender neck and tied it around the leg of the couch. He took one last look at her bloody tearful face before dropping the hood over her head.
Sarah could hear him walking away, climbing the stairs. She tried to roll her side so she could leverage herself up on to her knees but there wasn't enough slack on the leash to do so. She kicked and struggled and screamed as loud as she could. She would scream and scream and scream until someone heard her and called the cops or came and investigating themselves. Before long her throat was sore and horse but it was the only thing she could do. She couldn't just lie there and cry while her children were hurt.
Finally she could hear footfalls coming back down the stairs and then the sound of her two children Jake and Jordan crying. Mister’s warm mass was back over top of her again.
“Don’t worry my dear one. You were never real. Neither were they,” he whispered through the cloth of the hood.
This couldn’t be happening to her. It just couldn’t. Then, as if to assure her it could and it was, came the cruel ripping of her pants.
Jeremy Foster leaned back in his chair and folded his legs in a composed gentlemanly fashion, though inwardly he felt as composed as a rabid hyena – on meth. His client, Evelyn Dursten, sat across from him jabbering nonsense with such rapid breathless ease it reminded him of an auctioneer speaking in Pentecostal tongues...on meth. Evelyn had been with him nearly from the beginning when he left the FBI's elite behavioural unit to start his own private practice in civilian therapy. For five years now he had been a 'custodian of the skewed' as a colleague in the bureau had referred to it. Sometimes he missed the company of proper madmen.
“I just- I don't know. It's not that I don't love him... I mean, if you had a goldfish for twenty years – though that's impossible because they only live like what? One year at the most – you would love it. But, okay, I guess that's a bad example because it's obviously not the same thing. It's like if you had the same hairdresser or- or- or, I don't know like the same server at your favourite restaurant-”
“Evelyn. I understand what point you're trying to make,” Jeremy interrupted. “Time has created a bond between you and your husband despite your perceived incompatibility,”
Very discreetly he looked down at his graham swordfish wristwatch. His sessions with Evelyn have always been an exercise in patience. He groaned inwardly, sickened yet mesmerized by the way her lips parted and closed, barely perceptible like humming bird's wings, her vocal cords struggling to keep up with the never ending prattle spilling from her mouth. Endurance may be a better word than patience he thought. Which however, in the end all translated in therapist-ese to Cha-ching! He was operating a business after all. Which is not to say that he didn't want to help Evelyn. He really did. But he had learned a long time ago that some people just need to dump their shit on somebody. They weren't looking for insight, or perspective, they simply needed someone to listen to them vent. So he sat there and let her get it all out.
-If I was going to go through all the trouble of making a potato salad, you would think he would assume I didn't hate his sister anymore.
-I just don't see what the point is of exercising so much is. It's not like he's single.
-I don't believe we ever landed on the moon. I don't know why he can't just accept that.
The cacophony of symbols crashed against him like an auditory tsunami until mercifully the session expired and he very calmly, very happily announced:
“Unfortunately we are out of time Evelyn. But I think we've unearthed some really important stuff here. Let's dog ear this for now and pick it back up next week.”
Once she was out of the room he allowed himself a moment to decompress.
A knocking at his office door broke the sweet silence.
“Come in,” he said and his secretary Margret entered, her face ashen.
“It's the hospital. I think something has happened.”
A rather inexplicable feeling came over him. A quiet knowing in his heart, that somehow told him it had finally happened. His twin brother Christopher was dead.
“Thank you Margret,” he said slipping into a kind of adjacent reality. He walked to the desk, each of the nine steps precise and mechanical. He picked up the phone, watching himself do so, noticing his arm and his hand and then his finger jabbing down like a tool at the blinking light.
He held the receiver to his chest and waited for Margret to leave.
“This is Dr. Foster,”
“Dr. Foster, this is Dr. Alysulvun at Good Samaritan hospital. I regret you inform you that your brother Christopher has passed away. We require your presence to identify and claim the body.”
“Uh, yes. Yes, of course. At the hospital?”
“Yes sir. The general reception desk will be able to direct you once you're.”
“Okay, I'll be there.”
“So sorry for you loss Doctor Foster.”
Jeremy avoided particulars with Margaret and instructed her to cancel his appointments for the rest of the day. Then, like a zombie, he put one foot in front of the other until somehow found himself in the parking lot. The new car smell of his BMW M6 coup, failed to put a smile on his face for the first time since he drove it off the lot the week prior. Instead it just made him feel like an asshole. The only thing his brother Christopher had ever driven was a bicycle. How had he known he was gone?
Jeremy turned the key and the engine purred to life. The drive down Cedar Oak and across Jefferson was carried out exclusively by habit. It wasn't until he reached Wilshire that he made the very sudden decision that he couldn't face his brother's dead identical face in his present state and would have to go home first to consolidate himself. He didn't even have to ask, he knew it was suicide.
Jesus, he would have to tell his son Charlie. That could wait for the moment too. Besides if called the house and spoke to his ex wife right then he felt as though he might cry. She knew he him better than anyone and had an uncanny knack for drawing him into dramatic conversation.
Jeremy's condo was a tasteful pastel and hard wood habitat of one, situated within the very inclusive condominium complex of the Shoreham Villas, in west Hollywood. A Vainglorious community where the have's seemed compelled to congregate like months to a light bulb; fluttering around the most dazzling point they can find, never really going anywhere. He felt the buildings were charmless and ironically uninspired, and in a resolved sort of way, suitable.
He entered the perfectly chilled atmosphere of his home and calmly removed his shoes and gently placed he keys on the marble counter top of the kitchen island like he would any other day. He went to the cream coloured leather sofa to sit but something told him he should stay on his feet so instead he proceeded to the en suite bathroom in his bedroom and began to remove his clothes to shower. He delicately removed his tie and hung it back up in his closet then proceeded unbuttoned his shirt. There was a hanger he kept on the back of the bathroom door for when he got him and he utilized it.
Shirtless he stood in front of the mirror over the ironically double sinked counter and lamented, albeit in a casual sort of way, the fact that he had nobody to share this present grief with. How long had be been an island? How long had he remained the sole citizen of his precise, hyper-felicitous world?
He looked in the mirror, at the face which until this afternoon was not solely his. He was tall and broad chested and handsome and alone. Where a life led with a little more- what? Vulernability?- would have secured a wife, he had only an ex-wife. No girl friend either and plenty of those in the ex column as well. Not even a cat. He had needs for companionship of course and it was never too difficult to find a date but those needs were never -could never- be met on an emotional level. He realized as he inspected his lean, gym-sculpted body in the mirror that it was possible he had broken the heart of every single woman who had ever cared for him.
It was starting to become clear though that time would humble him yet. Time would eat away at his self reliance until, as a old and decrepit man, he would finally be forced to acknowledge he was not an island. Or at least that he shouldn't have been.
He leaned in close and inspected the grey which has starting to crop sporadically on his head and at his hairline itself which was slowly, grudgingly, retreating from the un-winnable war.
And now his brother was dead. Again he wondered how he knew. Was it a twin thing? Was it a hope thing? He washed his face and tried to wash the thought from his mind. He would not hope for that. He dared not. Wouldn’t that make him the sick one in the end?
Staring in the mirror he reached up to the light switch on the wall and flicked it off. He could still make out the contours of his face’s reflection. His brother's face.
He flicked the light back on, still fixed on his face. He wondered far from the first time what cosmic flip of the coin caused him to be the chosen one. Why was he born whole and blessed while his brother cursed and lost?
He flicked the light off.
He flicked the light on.
He flicked the light off.
He flicked the light on.
Shit, shower, shave, a good cry, and he was back on the road, heading to his ex wives house to break the news to his son.
The constant commotion of the newsroom was strangely comforting to Richard Lansdown. After forty years in broadcasting, he had come to rely on the turbulence associated with covering the happenings of a turbulent world.
He had paid his dues twice over by his calculations. Had climbed the ranks, until now as he sat as the networks lead anchor. Though he had truly realized all his professional goals, he had long ago begun to feel more like a mascot rather then a real news-man.
As the lead anchor of the worlds leading news organization, he presided over a vast kingdom of cabals and streams of information which flowed into the Los Angeles head quarters from all corners of the earth. But in the end, he was just the puppet monarch, who spoke only what the shadow government of the network put in his mouth to speak. Richard Lansdown the broadcasting legend, was nothing more then a spokesmen, reading a script written by an army of reporters, journalist, associated contributors, producers and executives. And only then if what they wanted him to say didn’t conflict in any way with the many and varied interests of the multinational conglomerate which they were owned by.
He couldn’t even remember the last time he had gotten his hands dirty and done some real reporting. His job was to stay abreast of virtually everything he could; he had to at all times, as best he could, be up to speed on whatever was happening on planet earth of any reasonable import to the masses and often even the things that weren't. Pop culture was the Frankenstein monster which was assimilating the youth of the world and marginalizing the old and out of touch via passive annexation to the point where one was forced to acknowledge the memes of the day or be considered irrelevant. Why else would someone like him know who Snookie is or have any idea what a Gangnam style was?
Sitting trying not to get impatient as the hair and make up artist prepped him for camera Richard watched the young woman, as she obsessively flicked at the wave of his meticulously sculpted, silver head of hair. A single strand in the front was not complying. He began to chuckle, realizing their jobs were not so different.
“Sorry Mr. Lansdown. Just trying to make it perfect.” She said misunderstanding his amusement.
“No, no. It’s quite alright,” he assured her. “You know I wanted to dye my hair when it started greying?”
“oh?” She asked too preoccupied with the rebellious hair to sound truly
“Oh yes. It was a very controversial situation. The network felt very strongly the grey added a certain… oh I don’t know… credibility to my look. They even suggested a man of my age dying his hair, may have seemed somewhat… undignified!”
“I don’t even remember what my real hair colour is,” she said dismissively, finally defeating the stray hair.
A production assistant giraffed his neck into the dressing room.
The young lady removed the paper bib from around Richard's neck and began to pack up her stuff and he tried to get a glimpse at the roots of her hair. It was a very good dye job he decided. He wondered if she bleached it white first. He had heard that’s how it’s done but wasn’t entirely sure.
“Thank you,” he said smoothing out his tie and pulling himself to his feet.
The ‘news room’ set was bright and sterile like an operating room. The was always something clinical about it which felt impersonal to Richard. The days of jittery nerves right before going live were long gone. Even as the teleprompter flashed to life and the camera’s switched on Richards thoughts were still elsewhere: Had Debra cooked diner? Who was on Conan tight? Would he get home in time to watch it? Maybe she made her shaved pork. It’s probably just when you dye your hair completely blond when you have to use peroxide. A shaved pork sandwich while watching Conan would be a nice way to end the day… That’s right it was Ryan Reynolds on tonight. He really enjoyed his sarcastic humour. Was that Canadian humour? Was there such a brand?
“Five, four, three” the line producer counted down then switched to 'hand count' for the remaining three numbers and the camera's go 'hot'.
“Good evening and welcome to News Hour. I’m Richard Dakkins.”
Richard pivoted smoothly over to camera two and took his serious baritone news- man voice, two notches down, to sombre.
“He has struck again. The serial killer known as Mister, who has confounded police and terrorized the state of California since he first became active over five years ago, has claimed new victims adding three more lives to the growing death toll and abducted another. Late last night the Los Angeles police department received an anonymous phone call, suspected to be from the killer himself, alerting them to the murder scene in Pico County Santa Monica. The police were directed to the home of Gregory and Sarah Whinner and their two children. At the scene the body of Sarah whinner along with those of her children, ages five and nine, were discovered. They had been murdered and their bodies mutilated. The specific nature of their injuries are too graphic to relay in detail here. At special press conference held this morning to address the public’s unabated concerns regarding the murders perpetrated by who some are calling, 'the Jack the Ripper of the twenty-first century'. During the news conference, Chief Randel the chief of Los Angeles police department referred to these most recent incident as ‘a horrific and inhuman act of unspeakable violence.' He later went on to cite the Mister killings as a prime example of why they death penalty is still implemented in the state of California and even suggested other states who have overturned the death penalty should perhaps reconsider that decision. Chief Randel seemed visibly shaken, over his department’s inability to apprehend the serial killer.”
The teleprompter flashed to coverage of the news conference indicating to Richard that he was off camera. He reached below the desk and grabbed his water. Maybe it wasn’t Ryan Reynolds after all, he thought. It could be Ryan Gosling. But he was Canadian too, wasn’t he? Which was the funny one?
The line producer counted back down to hot camera.
“Our thought and prayers go out to the friends and family of this horrible, horrible crime. On the screen now are special hotlines set up by the Los Angeles police department and the F.B.I. who are urging you to contact them if you have any information regarding the crimes and or the whereabouts of Gregory Whinner. As per his usual methods authorities are expecting the perpetrator of these horrible crimes to upload a video of the killing to peer to peer sites. The police and the FBI would like to remind you that download and possession of such videos is a criminal offence and subject to incarceration.”
Richard turns back to camera two. “More disturbing news from wall street today. Could American be headed for yet another national credit score down grade?
Christopher’s apartment was exactly as Jeremy expected it to be, not only messy but dirty. The floor looked as though it had never been touched with a mop or broom. The sink was crammed full of dishes which by the look of the detritus of food crusted on them like barnacles had been there for a very, very long time. Next to the sink was a stack of empty TV diner trays. Jeremy was sure that once all the dishes were dirty, instead of washing them, Chris just started eating straight from the packaging. He knew if he looked he would find a box of disposable plastic forks and had to open only two kitchen drawers before he found them. The whole place stunk of body odour and cigarettes.
In the living room next to the old rear projection television was the ever present, ever growing, stack of video games. Christopher had virtually every video game console ever made. His library of games was astonishing. Hundreds of discs and old school cartridges teetered in towers like proud little monuments to anti-socialism.
The spot he would sit on the couch and play was sagged in and obvious. Next to the couch was a two litre coke bottle full of urine. Jeremy had seem him do this before during all night vid binges. There were days when his brother would be play these fucking video games for eighteen hours or more, stopping only when he couldn’t fight off the sleep anymore. He would eat in front of them, sleep in front of them and apparently piss in front of them.
There was a time when he tried to get his brother to break this understandable but counter productive habit but as his conditioned worsened over the years though Jeremy came to understand his need for escapism. It was an opiate for the soul. He even started buying him games.
It had been two days since he learned of his brother’s death and hadn’t been able to sleep more then a couple minutes at a time since. Wearily he let himself crash down onto the crater in the couch created by his brothers weight. The fabric and cushion had been squeezed down to the springs which he could feel almost poking free beneath him. Why hadn’t Chris started sitting on the perfectly plump and seemingly unused cushion beside it?
He thought about going through Chris’s drawers and personal items but he knew there would be no use. There were no clues, no evidence and no reason why his brother killed himself other then the fact that there basically was no reason not to: nothing ever changed. No matter how much concern, or help, or anger, or love was spent, nothing ever changed. Even his apartment stayed, frustratingly, agonizingly, the same. Then he realized that was wrong. Things had changed. They had gotten worst; much worst. As bad as they could get he supposed. Once the will to live is gone, what more could be lost?
He felt the urge to cry slowly start to tickle the back of his throat and the pressure of the coming tears behind his nose and eyes but he was afraid if he started he wouldn’t be able to stop. He had to be strong. If he just got through the funeral and the wake he would be okay. After all, he always knew that this day would come. His schizophrenia had grown inside steadily since he was a child and he suspected even Chris knew it
He could use some coffee. Or gin. Or both. And a shave he realized rubbing the stubble on his face. He still had to go and buy a suit for Chris to be buried in.
He got up and walked to the bathroom. He stood outside the door which was mercifully closed, placed his hand on it and wondered if it had been messy. He was almost impressed that Chris had the balls to go through with it. Having grown up knowing their father committed suicide it was something which Jeremy had thought about often, as Chris must have also. It was forever a mystery to him how one could willingly take that leap. Was something, anything, not better then nothing? Didn’t hope for a better tomorrow exist as long as there was a tomorrow? Or was it hope of what waited for us in the afterlife that encouraged them to go? Then again, if there was a benevolent God, or being, or whatever, waiting to welcome us into paradise, why was the world He insisted we live in first so …. Fucked up? No matter what his poor, sick brother believed, suicide took a type of wilfulness he wasn’t used to Chris being capable of. If he had just shown as much determination and conviction for, anything else in his life….
He couldn’t let himself think about it. He had to just get through the funeral and the wake and the next week or two and eventually he would be fine... he would be fine. Everything will be okay.
The apartment was so quiet he could hear water running in the pipes from somewhere in the building. He placed his hand against the cold surface of the bathroom door. Had they cleaned up the mess? Probably not. Of course he would have to do it himself. Metaphorically that
He gripped the door knob but couldn’t turn it. He just couldn’t. He needed coffee.
A half an hour later he was in the parking lot of Mcdonalds drinking a large black coffee thankful that they had replaced it with that old swill they used to serve. It was actually good now.
He had the windows rolled down but cranked the AC anyways because it relaxed him.
Some black kids in an impala on the other side of the parking lot wear blaring a Kayne west song. It was a good song. He thought maybe it was about not being able to find love because he was obsessed with his career. That sounded familiar. It had been somewhat of a big deal when was able to go ahead and cancel the remainder of his appointments for the week. Even Margret seemed surprised. Is that what it's come to? His own brother dies and people expect him to what? Just keep on living and working like nothing happened? He knew he should be getting home. He had to pick up Charlie at six a.m in order to get to the funeral home before everyone else, but wanted to wait for the song to end first.
The black kids in the car were all in their teens or early twenties. They seemed like good kids. Hommies of all colours, it appeared, seemed more friendly and happy these days. The unprovoked cold stares and aggressiveness of the nineties and early millennium seemed to be tampering off. Rap, he thought, also seemed to be on a positive upswing. He was sure the two were connected.
And the wheel turns he thought feeling his stomach knot up again. That was something his brother said to him once in one of his rare moment of baffling maturity.
It was back in o' five or o' six. He was visiting Christopher as he often did back then.
“Have you heard from Aileen?” Chris asked casually from where sipped his tea at the dining room table.
Aileen was a woman he had dated for a few months after his divorce. One day she had just severed contact with no explanation.
“Strange that you ask actually.”
“’Oh yeah? Why?”
“I heard from here just last week. She called me out of the blue. Said she was sorry. That she made a mistake and never should have left me.”
“Did she say why she just disappeared?” Chris asked.
“Not really, no.”
“So what did you say?”
“I told her it was too late and that if she had just explained herself to me, perhaps we could pick things back up again but she didn't even show me that respect so I had no time for her.”
Chris put down his tea and smiled slyly at him from across the table.
“And the wheel turns” he said.
The words struck Jeremy straight to the heart. So succinct. So true. Indeed, the wheel turns. After that whenever Jeremy was able to discern karma making it’s long gradual rotations through all things, he would say these wise, wise words to himself: And the wheel turns.
It was always disturbing to Jeremy when he could glimpse past the mask of madness that obscured his brother’s true face. How alike would they have been if not for his mental illness? His whole life through he wondered if one day he would fall ill too.
He felt something cold on his cheek and realized he had begun to cry. Wiping the tears away with this back of his hand he realized he couldn’t hear that music in the parking lot anymore. The car full of kids was gone, his coffee now cold.
He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, unaware that the wheel really had in fact begun to turn.
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