Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Six
Silence, broken only by an echo of the gunshot.
Danny and Kelly stood facing each other. Kelly’s eyes were wide in shock.
Danny’s mouth was a circle of surprise. Kelly was holding a gun, from nowhere. It was pointing at Danny, who hadn’t noticed it until after the shot was fired. His own gun was still in his jacket pocket. It had blown a smoking hole in the pocket. There was the smell of burnt leather , propellant and blood.
Kelly dropped his gun, which broke into cheap plastic pieces on the solid pavement. Danny stared at it, closed his eyes in regret.
A pool blossomed around his still form, growing silent and slow, black in the streetlight’s orange glow. Danny couldn’t move. Could only see.
The blood was dark in the streetlights, a glint of red in the reflected glow. It looked deep, moved slowly, blooming like a slow-motion flower as more came out. And more.
Danny snapped out of his paralysis. He ran to the nearest payphone and dialed 911.
He shouted quick, desperate directions into the handset, and cut the call off as quickly as possible. He ran back to where Kelly lay dying, and looked at the figure lying there.
There was a hole in his stomach, but not much blood. That all seemed to be leaking from his back. The bullet, Danny realized, went right through him. He looked down the street in the direction it must have went, and began to run, looking around for what could be left of the bullet. He arrived at a corner, with a junk yard across the road. A lead needle in an impossible haystack.
Danny quickly thought about his options, and then ran as fast as he could towards his apartment building.
He could already hear the sirens.
By the time Danny reached his door, he was gasping hard and painfully. His hands trembled with key and lock but the door finally opened, and he tumbled through the opening, slamming it shut with his foot.
He lay on the carpet, breathing in short rasps, feeling his heart pounding its way out of his chest. Danny had never felt as scared, not since he was a child and something had woken him in the night, something unreal and ethereal that disappeared like all bad dreams eventually do.
This wouldn’t go away. This had really happened.
He had killed Kelly. Shot him dead, in the street. The police were probably all over the place, scouring the area for clues, threads from Danny’s jacket, skin cells, hairs, sweat, his spit, god only knows what else.
He took his jacket off, then his shoes. He stripped down naked, and took all this clothes into the bedroom.
He tried to dress in a fresh set of clothes while putting the old stuff into a sports bag. This didn’t go well, and by the time he had finished both tasks, his heart had calmed down a bit, and he was breathing normally.
Danny fell back on the bed, and felt the weight of the gun beside him on the mattress. He picked it up, looked at it. The smell of cordite was still strong, and Danny wasn’t sure if he was imagining it or not.
It’s not cordite, came a small voice in his mind, they’ve not used cordite for years.
Danny didn’t know how he knew that. A casual fact, read in a book or magazine, long forgotten until now. He ran to the bathroom, hid the gun and stripped again, taking a hot shower that lasted until all the hot water was gone.
The smell of the gun was gone, now. Out of his hair, off of his skin.
He dried, dressed, and walked into the bedroom. He turned on the television and the radio, and tuned both to local channels. He waited for news reports to come in. Eventually, in the middle of the night, the news came.
The first thing was that Kelly wasn’t dead.
Danny’s first emotion was relief, but the newsreader quickly stated that Kelly was undergoing surgery and was reported as being in ‘critical condition’. A replica gun had been found at the scene, and it was thought that the victim had either been robbed at gunpoint or had scared someone else with a real gun into defending themselves.
Danny took pause. That was, more or less, exactly what happened. He had never intended to hurt anyone with the gun. It was in his pocket, for fuck’s sake. He had his hand on it to stop it falling out.
No. That wasn’t true. He had been holding it, ready to fire. It hadn’t happened by accident. Even if he could remember pulling the trigger, he’d meant to.
He was woken up by a thumping at his door. Memories kicked in one at a time and his mood shifted quickly from annoyed to terrified in the space of a few seconds.
He stood up, suddenly wide-awake, and paused. The thumps continued. Danny walked into his living room, and stared at the door.
Weren’t the police meant to shout something first?
“Danny! Let me in! Please let me in!”
The voice was Rachel’s. He walked over, looked through the security hole, and saw his ex-girlfriend, looking ragged and tired, standing outside wearing a man’s coat over what looked like her pajamas, the ones she had bought in Maine, with all the teddy bears on it. They were flannel and he’d always liked how the material felt against him, in bed.
He pushed the memory away and opened the door. Rachel stood there for a moment, silently staring. Then she fell into the room, into his arms, holding him tightly and sobbing.
Danny was nearly overwhelmed with the scent of her, the weight of her light frame in his arms, her tears, her very presence. He felt dizzy, floaty.
Danny felt like his heart would burst. He really did love her. He closed the door and walked her to the sofa. She sat down and lent into him more, still crying.
“Kelly… he’s been, he’s been… shot….” she sobbed.
Danny’s feelings shifted between love, and compassion, serving sharply towards guilt and then resentment. Her new lover had been shot and she was here, in Danny’s arms, crying about it? What the fuck?
“Is he… okay?” asked Danny, his own voice trembling with repressed anger.
“He’s unconscious. The doctors say he’s got a fifty percent chance….”
Another memory, all the other times she’d cried. During movies, sad TV shows, at her father’s funeral, when her friend’s dog died, when Danny had said all those hurtful things, when she had left him.
The sobs died down slowly. She was still leaning against him, as she had for years before.
“Why are you here?” asked Danny quietly. He kept the emotion out of his voice.
She didn’t move, just continued to lean against him. Her breathing was starting to calm down. “You were the first person I thought of, Danny,” she said, smiling sadly, “The only person I wanted to be with right now.”
Danny didn’t know what to say. Hope gave way to the leaden dread that had been there before Rachel turned up.
“Funny, isn’t it?” she said, then sighed heavily. She fell asleep.
Danny sat there while she softly found solace elsewhere, and his mind was racing. What if he wakes up and tells them it was me? What if he doesn’t wake up at all?
The doorbell rang. Danny slipped Rachel onto the couch, and she continued to sleep. He put a blanket over her.
He opened the door. Cal stood in the square arch of doorway, face white, eyes wide. He said nothing. Danny ushered him in, and they went to the kitchen, silently.
“What happened?” asked Cal in a soft voice. His knuckles gripped the coffee cup tightly. He was a mixture of furious and frightened. Just like me, thought Danny.
“He had a gun, too,” said Danny. “It wasn’t real, but I didn’t know that.”
Cal looked into the cup, and said nothing. “Self defense, then.” he said finally. His voice was dead.
Danny nodded. “I guess.”
Cal and Danny were silent for a while, just thinking.
“What are you going to do?” asked Cal. Danny shook his head.
“I don’t know. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to shoot him,” said Danny quietly.
Cal looked up and his face went white. He was looking behind Danny, back into the living room where Rachel was sleeping.
“What did you say?” she asked quietly. He voice was tiny, unbelieving.
Danny turned. Her expression was unreadable, her eyes still red from crying. She was pale. Even her lips were almost white, a tight line where her smile used to be. She’d probably heard Cal and Danny talking, thought she’d come in, have a cup of coffee and wait with them for news. She’d certainly got some news, alright.
“Rachel… oh, Rachel, no. It was an accident,” he said softly, but she just ran to the bathroom, hand over her mouth. The door slammed before Danny or Cal could do anything and the muffled sound of Rachel being violently sick stopped them in their tracks.
“Jesus, Danny,” said Cal, “God help us.”
“She’ll understand. I mean, Kelly had a gun, too. He’s a psycho. He was following me,” said Danny. Cal raised his hands.
“You don’t have to convince me,” he said. He pointed at the bathroom door. “She’s the one you need to tell.”
Danny walked over to the bathroom door. He could hear the sound of running water now, the swirl and spit of Rachel rinsing. He tried to open the door, but it was locked. He swore softly.
“Rachel, are you alright?” he called. The water stopped, replaced by silence.
“I’m really sorry about what happened,” he called through the door. “I was just out walking. Kelly was following me. He threatened me.”
Silence. Perhaps the sound of movement within. Rustling, followed by a more solid sound. Danny ignored it.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him. He’s not stable, Rachel. He’d been watching me all day!”
The silence was starting to worry Danny. Perhaps she was listening to him, though. Perhaps he was getting through to her.
“Danny,” whispered Cal, standing in the hallway between the kitchen and the bathroom. Danny looked back at him in annoyance.
“Where’s the gun?”